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  • Volume 52, Issue 22
  • Rigorous qualitative research in sports, exercise and musculoskeletal medicine journals is important and relevant
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  • http://orcid.org/0000-0001-6325-2705 Susan C Slade 1 , 2 ,
  • Shilpa Patel 3 ,
  • Martin Underwood 3 ,
  • Jennifer L Keating 1
  • 1 Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences , Monash University , Melbourne , Victoria , Australia
  • 2 La Trobe Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine Research , School of Allied Health/College of Science, Health and Engineering, La Trobe University , Melbourne , Victoria , Australia
  • 3 Division of Health Sciences, Warwick Clinical Trials Unit , Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick , Coventry , UK
  • Correspondence to Dr Susan C Slade, Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, VIC 3128, Australia; susan.slade{at}monash.edu


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  • qualitative
  • methodology

Qualitative research enables inquiry into processes and beliefs through exploration of narratives, personal experiences and language. 1 Its findings can inform and improve healthcare decisions by providing information about peoples’ perceptions, beliefs, experiences and behaviour, and augment quantitative analyses of effectiveness data. The results of qualitative research can inform stakeholders about facilitators and obstacles to exercise, motivation and adherence, the influence of experiences, beliefs, disability and capability on physical activity, exercise engagement and performance, and to test strategies that maximise physical performance.

High-quality qualitative research can also enrich interpretation of quantitative analyses and be pooled in metasyntheses for evaluation of strength of evidence; contribute to the development and implementation of clinical decision support aids, outcome measures and clinical practice guidelines 2 such as the UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines ( www.nice.org.uk ) and Ottawa Panel guidelines for knee osteoarthritis 3 ; and inform health and social care. 4

In 2000, just 0.6% of papers in 170 general medical, mental health and nursing journals reported qualitative research. Between 1999 and 2008, the proportion of qualitative studies in 20 high-impact general medical and health services and policy research journals remained consistently low. 5 Our audit and assessment of Scopus top 10 journals in ‘physical therapy, sports therapy and rehabilitation’ identified few qualitative publications. These ranged from zero to three per journal from January 2017 to August 2017. Other journals publishing reports in the field of exercise and sports medicine had better representation of qualitative research into exercise prescription for low back pain: for example, Journal of Physiotherapy (n=3), Clinical Rehabilitation (n=7) and Physiotherapy (n=11).

In sport and exercise research, qualitative analysis is fundamental to understanding factors such as exercise adherence, the nature of effective training, non-response to interventions and stakeholder priorities. 6 Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health is the first international journal dedicated solely to qualitative research in sport and exercise psychology, sport sociology, sports coaching, and sports and exercise medicine. Greater representation of qualitative research in BJSM would enhance the scope of its publications. Strategies that enhance the research rigour and credibility of qualitative research reports may promote acceptance of qualitative studies across a wider spectrum of journals.

Reporting guidelines

All research reports need to demonstrate that the work meets accepted standards for scientific rigour. Reporting guidelines and checklists such as the Consolidated criteria for Reporting Qualitative research (COREQ) 7  guide the complete and transparent reporting of qualitative studies. A comprehensive study report provides the detail that readers need to appraise the credibility of findings. Formalised checklists create uniformity across publications and enable replication and validation, and facilitate translation of key findings to practice.

Risk of bias/trustworthiness

Items likely to be important to consider for risk of bias/assessment of internal validity are sampling strategies, adequacy (often termed saturation) of data collection to support theory development, participant protection, researcher bias, data collection methods designed to enhance accuracy, explicit analysis procedures, clarity in the links between data and results, and selective reporting bias.

Qualitative metasynthesis

A synthesis of evidence from qualitative research can provide ‘strength of evidence’ and benefits when qualitative data are available in peer-reviewed publications. 8 Comprehensive reporting is guided by the Enhancing Transparency in Reporting the Synthesis of Qualitative Research (ENTREQ) 9 statement. Assessment of overall confidence in review findings is guided by the Confidence in the Evidence from Reviews of Qualitative Research. 9

The Equator Network: repository for reporting guidelines

Reporting guidelines are available on the Equator Network ( www.equator.org ). As an overview, empirical studies should include the headings of title and abstract, background, methods (theoretical framework, research team characteristics, participant selection, ethical issues, setting, data collection and analysis), results (synthesis, interpretation and links to empirical data), discussion and other (conflicts of interest, funding). 7 For metasynthesis, recommended headings are aim, synthesis method, eligibility criteria, data sources, search strategy, study selection, appraisal, data extraction and analysis steps, coding, theme derivation, supporting quotations, synthesis output and discussion. 10

Conclusion and recommendations

We encourage and support a higher profile of empirical qualitative studies and metasyntheses in BJSM and representation of stakeholder beliefs and experiences. It would advance reporting practices if authors submit, and editors require, manuscripts that comply with published reporting guidelines (COREQ for empirical studies; ENTREQ for metasyntheses). The quality of qualitative research publications might be advanced if reviewers use standardised reporting guidelines, and risk of bias assessment items that evaluate internal validity when reviewing manuscripts for publication. This would be facilitated by guideline checklists that are returned with manuscript review. We recommend and support a BJSM policy that requires completion of reporting guideline checklists for manuscript submission.

  • Huberman AM ,
  • Ziebland S ,
  • Fitzpatrick R , et al
  • Brosseau L ,
  • Desjardins B , et al
  • Noyes J , et al
  • Gagliardi AR ,
  • Stenner R ,
  • Swinkels A ,
  • Mitchell T , et al
  • Sainsbury P ,
  • Patel S , et al
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  • Munthe-Kaas H , et al
  • Flemming K ,
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Contributors All authors have contributed to this editorial and approved the final manuscript.

Competing interests None declared.

Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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Article Contents

Introduction, conflict of interest statement.

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Understanding participation in sport and physical activity among children and adults: a review of qualitative studies

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Steven Allender, Gill Cowburn, Charlie Foster, Understanding participation in sport and physical activity among children and adults: a review of qualitative studies, Health Education Research , Volume 21, Issue 6, December 2006, Pages 826–835, https://doi.org/10.1093/her/cyl063

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Qualitative research may be able to provide an answer as to why adults and children do or do not participate in sport and physical activity. This paper systematically examines published and unpublished qualitative research studies of UK children's and adults' reasons for participation and non-participation in sport and physical activity. The review covers peer reviewed and gray literature from 1990 to 2004. Papers were entered into review if they: aimed to explore the participants' experiences of sport and physical activity and reasons for participation or non-participation in sport and physical activity, collected information on participants who lived in the United Kingdom and presented data collected using qualitative methods. From >1200 papers identified in the initial search, 24 papers met all inclusion criteria. The majority of these reported research with young people based in community settings. Weight management, social interaction and enjoyment were common reasons for participation in sport and physical activity. Concerns about maintaining a slim body shape motivated participation among young girls. Older people identified the importance of sport and physical activity in staving off the effects of aging and providing a social support network. Challenges to identity such as having to show others an unfit body, lacking confidence and competence in core skills or appearing overly masculine were barriers to participation.

It is generally accepted that physical activity confers benefits to psychosocial health, functional ability and general quality of life [ 1 ] and has been proven to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease [ 2 ] and some cancers [ 3 ]. Here, physical activity refers to ‘any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure’ [ 4 ].

Conditions associated with physical inactivity include obesity, hypertension, diabetes, back pain, poor joint mobility and psychosocial problems [ 5–7 ]. Physical inactivity is a major public health challenge in the developed world and is recognized as a global epidemic [ 8 ]. Within the United States, the rate of childhood obesity is expected to reach 40% in the next two decades [ 9 ] and Type 2 diabetes is expected to affect 300 million people worldwide within the same time [ 10 ].

The UK government has set a target for ‘70% of the population to be reasonably active (for example 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week) by 2020’ [ 8 , 11 ] (p. 15). This target could be described as ambitious; only 37% of men and 24% of women in the United Kingdom currently meet this benchmark [ 12 ]. The Health Survey for England (HSE) [ 13 ] found that the number of physically inactive people (less than one occasion of 30-min activity per week) was increasing and that this trend was consistent for both genders and across all age groups [ 14 ]. Conventionally, sport and forms of physical activity such as aerobics, running or gym work have been the focus of efforts to increase population activity levels. The HSE measure includes activities, such as gardening and housework, which are not traditionally considered as physical activity. Sport England found that in the 10-year period between 1987 and 1996 participation in traditional types of sport and physical activity stagnated or fell in all groups other than the 60- to 69-year old age group. This trend was socially patterned by gender, socio-economic status, social class and ethnicity [ 15 ]. There are many broad influences upon physical activity behavior including intra-personal, social, environmental factors and these determinants vary across the life course [ 4 ].

Ambitious national targets and increased funding of community sport and physical activity projects (such as the Sports Hub in Regent's Park, London) [ 16 ] show that sport and physical activity is gaining social, political and health policy importance. The increased interest in physical activity is welcome, but the trend data hints that current interventions to promote sport and physical activity are inadequate. Further, it questions whether the evidence base supporting physical activity policy provides an adequate understanding of the reasons for participation or non-participation in physical activity.

Historically, research into determinants of sport and physical activity participation has tended to adopt quantitative methods, which undertake cross-sectional surveys of pre-determined questions on individual's knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about sport and physical activity. For example, the HSE [ 13 ] asks adults about activity in five domains: activity at work, activity at home (e.g. housework, gardening, do it yourself maintenance (DIY)), walks of ≥15 min and sports and exercise activities. Large studies such as these can successfully assess the direction and strength of trends in participation but are unable to explain how children and adults adopt, maintain or cease to participate in sport and physical activity throughout their lives.

An alternative approach is required which is sensitive to the contextual, social, economic and cultural factors which influence participation in physical activity [ 17 ]. Qualitative methods offer this in-depth insight into individuals' experiences and perceptions of the motives and barriers to participation in sport and physical activity [ 18 ] and are recognized as increasingly important in developing the evidence base for public health [ 19 ]. Although qualitative research is a blanket term for a wide range of approaches, this type of research typically aims to understand the meaning of individual experience within social context. The data for qualitative studies often come from repeated interviews or focus groups, are generally more in-depth and have fewer participants than quantitative research. Additionally, the inductive nature of qualitative research allows for theory to emerge from the lived experiences of research participants rather than the pre-determined hypotheses testing of quantitative approaches.

Thomas and Nelson [ 20 ] describe qualitative methods as the ‘new kid on the block’ in sport and physical activity research and a small body of qualitative research on sport and physical activity in the United Kingdom is known to exist. This paper aims to systematically examine published and unpublished qualitative research studies which have examined UK children's and adults' reasons for participation and non-participation in sport and physical activity.

The review of qualitative research covered the period from 1990 to 2004. This 15-year period was considered adequate to cover the most recent research on barriers and motivation to participation in sport and physical activity. Research papers were sourced in three ways. First, a wide range of electronic databases were searched, including Medline, CINAHL, Index to Thesis, ISI Science Citation Index, ISI Social Science Citation Index, PAIS International, PSYCHINFO, SIGLE and SPORTS-DISCUS. Second, relevant references from published literature were followed up and included where they met inclusion criteria. Third, additional ‘gray’ literature not identified in electronic searches was sourced through individuals who were likely to have knowledge in this area, including librarians and researchers active in the field. This third step ensures inclusion of papers which may not be submitted to peer review journals including reports for government bodies such as Sport England or the Department of Health. Search terms included ‘sports’, ‘dancing’, ‘play’, ‘cycle’, ‘walk’, ‘physical activity’, ‘physical education’ and ‘exercise’.

Papers which met the following criteria were entered into the next phase of the review:

(i) the aim of the study was to explore the participants' experiences of sport and physical activity and reasons for participation or non-participation in sport and physical activity;

(ii) the study collected information on participants who lived in the United Kingdom; and,

(iii) the study presented data collected using qualitative methods.

Two researchers (GC and SA) reviewed each paper independently. Results were compared and discrepancies discussed. Data were extracted using a review schema developed by the research team. In most cases, the original author's own words were used in an attempt to convey the intended meaning and to allow for more realistic comparison between studies.

More than 1200 papers were identified by the initial search strategy. A total of 24 papers were accepted into the final stage of the review, with all but two published during or after 1997. Half of the papers (12) reported research where data were collected in community settings. Of the others, four were set in general physician (GP) referral schemes (in which GPs refer patients to physical activity groups), three in schools, two in sports and leisure clubs and one in a group of three national sports governing bodies. Table I shows that studies described participants by socio-economic status (working class, low income, private or public patient), ethnicity (South Asian and Black in one study, or Scottish, Pakistani, Chinese, Bangladeshi in another) and level of exercise (Elite or other, participant or non-participant).

Participant characteristics

Almost two-thirds of papers (15) did not specify a theoretical framework. Of the nine that did, three used grounded theory, three used a feminist framework, one used figurational sociology, one used gender relations theory and one used Sidentop's model of participation.

The age profile of participants was described in different ways although some grouping was possible ( Table I ). Two studies involved children aged <15 years (5–15 years old and 9–15 years old), seven studies involved research with teenage girls or younger women (aged between 14 and 24 years), 11 related to middle-aged participants (30–65 years) and four reported on adults 50 years or older. The results are organized in two sections: reasons for participation in physical activity and barriers to participation in physical activity. Within each section, results are presented in order of the age group which participated in the study.

Reasons for participation in sport and physical activity

Table II summarizes the main findings of this review. Although most people recognized that there were health benefits associated with physical activity, this was not the main reason for participation. Other factors such as weight management, enjoyment, social interaction and support were more common reasons for people being physically active.

Summary of main findings

Young children

Participation for young children was found to be more enjoyable when children were not being forced to compete and win, but encouraged to experiment with different activities. MacPhail et al. [ 21 ] found providing children with many different types of physical activity and sport-encouraged participation. Enjoyment and support from parents were also crucial [ 22 ]. Parents play a large role in enabling young children opportunities to be physically active and Bostock [ 23 ] found that mothers with young children discouraged their children from playing in an environment perceived as unsafe. Porter [ 24 ] showed that parents are more supportive of activity with easy access, a safe play environment, good ‘drop-off’ arrangements and activities available for other members of the family.

Teenagers and young women

Concerns about body shape and weight management were the main reasons for the participation of young girls. A number of studies [ 25–27 ] reported pressure to conform to popular ideals of beauty as important reasons for teenage girls being physically active. Flintoff and Scraton [ 28 ] interviewed very active girls who described having learnt new skills, increased self-esteem, improved fitness and developed new social networks as motivation to be physically active.

Support from family and significant others at ‘key’ transitional phases (such as changing schools) was essential to maintaining participation [ 29 ]. Those who continued participating through these transitionary periods recalled the importance of positive influences at school in becoming and staying physically active. For girls, having peers to share their active time with was important.

A wide range of adults were studied including patients in GP referral schemes, gay and disabled groups, runners and South Asian and Black communities.

Adults exercise for a sense of achievement, skill development and to spend ‘luxury time’ on themselves away from daily responsibilities [ 30 ]. Non-exercisers recalled negative school experiences as reasons for not participating into middle age [ 31 ].

Studies of GP exercise referral schemes found that the medical sanctioning of programs was a great motivator for participation [ 32 ]. Other benefits reported by referral scheme participants were the social support network created and the general health benefits of being active [ 30 , 33 ].

Among disabled men, exercise provided an opportunity to positively reinterpret their role following a disabling injury [ 34 ]. For this group, displaying and confirming their status as active and competitive was beneficial. Participants in this study described the support network offered by participation as the real value of physical activity and sport. In particular, meeting other disabled men and sharing similar experiences was a key motivator. The building of skills and confidence was another motive for disabled men's participation in sport [ 35 ].

The enjoyment and social networks offered by sport and physical activity are clearly important motivators for many different groups of people aged between 18 and 50 years. The reasons for participation can, however, differ subtly between people within a single group. For example, Smith [ 36 ] interviewed members of a running club and found a distinction between ‘runners’ and ‘joggers’. Runners were elite members of the club and were motivated by intense competition and winning. Conversely, joggers did not consider themselves competitive in races but aimed to better their own previous best time. Joggers were more motivated by the health benefits of running and the increased status afforded to them by non-exercisers who saw them as fit and healthy.

Older adults

Hardcastle and Taylor [ 37 ] suggest that a complex interplay of physical, psychological and environmental factors influence participation among older people. Older adults identified the health benefits of physical activity in terms of reducing the effects of aging and being fit and able to play with grandchildren [ 38 ].

While GP referrals [ 32 , 39 ] encouraged the uptake of exercise in older age groups participation appears to be maintained through enjoyment and strong social networks. This is exemplified by Cooper and Thomas' [ 40 ] study of ballroom dancers in London. Social dancers described dance as helping them challenge the traditional expectations of older people being physically infirm. Participation over time was supported by the flexible nature of ballroom dancing. Different styles of dance provide more or less vigorous forms of activity to suit the skills and limitations of each dancer. Equally important was the social network provided by the weekly social dance encouraging the maintenance of participation across major life events such as bereavement through the support of other dancers in the group. Other studies also highlight the importance of social networks in maintaining participation [ 41 ].

Barriers to participation in sport and physical activity

On a simple level, barriers to participation in physical activity include high costs, poor access to facilities and unsafe environments. Other more complex issues relating to identity and shifting social networks also have a great influence. There were no studies reporting on the barriers to participation in sport and physical activity facing young children.

Negative experiences during school physical activity [physical education (PE)] classes were the strongest factor discouraging participation in teenage girls [ 29 ]. For many girls, impressing boyfriends and other peers was seen as more important than physical activity. While many girls wanted to be physically active, a tension existed between wishing to appear feminine and attractive and the sweaty muscular image attached to active women [ 25 ].

A number of studies [ 27 , 29 , 42 ] showed that tight, ill-fitting PE uniforms were major impediments to girls participating in school sport. These concerns over image and relationships with peers led to an increased interest in non-active leisure.

Flintoff and Scraton [ 28 ] cited the disruptive influence of boys in PE class as another major reason for girls' non-participation. The competitive nature of PE classes and the lack of support for girls from teachers reinforced these problems. Girls were actively marginalized in PE class by boys and many described not being able to get involved in games or even getting to use equipment. Teachers were found to be complicit in this marginalization by not challenging the disruptive behavior of boys in class. Coakley and White [ 29 ] noted that boys were also disruptive out of class and some boys actively discouraged their girlfriends from participating in sport as it made them look ‘butch’. Mulvihill et al. [ 22 ] and Coakley and White [ 29 ] both argue that gender stereotyping has serious negative effects on the participation of girls. Realistic role models for all body types and competency levels were needed rather than the current ‘sporty’ types.

Orme [ 42 ] found that girls were bored by the traditional sports offered in PE. Mulvihill et al. [ 22 ] found that many girls were disappointed with the lack of variety in PE and would rather play sports other than football, rugby and hockey. Being unable to demonstrate competency of a skill to peers in class also made people uncomfortable with PE. Non-traditional activities such as dance were more popular than traditional PE as they provided the opportunity for fun and enjoyment without competition [ 28 ].

Coakley and White [ 29 ] showed that the transition from childhood to adulthood was a key risk time for drop-out. Teenagers did not wish to be associated with activities which they described as ‘childish’ and instead chose activities that were independent and conferred a more adult identity upon them. One participant in this study described leaving a netball team of younger girls because it was ‘babyish’. A number of young women interviewed by these researchers described their belief that ‘adult’ women did not participate in physical activity or sport.

Anxiety and lack of confidence about entering unfamiliar settings such as gyms were the main barriers to participation in GP referral schemes. Not knowing other people, poor body image and not fitting in with the ‘gym’ culture were the prime concerns of this group [ 33 ]. The adults reported in the studies reviewed did not identify with role models used to promote physical activity and people from this age group suggested that realistic exercise leaders would be more effective in encouraging participation [ 41 ]. The lack of realistic role models was also a problem for members of the South Asian and Black community [ 43 ]. This group did not see physical activity as a black or Asian pursuit, but rather as white, middle-class, male domain. The authors argue that there were few opportunities or facilities available to this group.

Self-perception is incredibly important in motivating people to participate in all types of physical activity. The stigma attached to being socially disadvantaged was shown to decrease exercise among low-income women in the Midlands [ 23 ]. Women in this study did not want others to see them walking due to the social stigma attached with not owning a car.

Arthur and Finch's [ 35 ] study of adults with disabilities found that few relevant or positive role models existed. Disabled men reported a lack of knowledge about the appropriate types or levels of activity in relation to their disability. Additionally there were few opportunities to meet other people who were active and disabled. This study also found that the dominance of masculine stereotypes in sport was a particular challenge to participation among gay men. These men expressed concerns about not fitting in and not being one of the ‘lads’. Gay men reported withdrawing from organized sport due to feeling uncomfortable in the associated social situations [ 34 ].

Shaw and Hoeber's [ 44 ] discourse study of three English sports governing bodies reinforced the negative impact of macho culture in sport. Their study found that discourses of masculinity were predominant at all levels of the organization from coaching to senior management. The use of gendered language was shown to actively discourage women from advancing in these organizations. Discourses of femininity (characterized by loyalty, organizational, communicative and human resource skills) were associated with middle and lower management positions compared with masculine discourses (centered on elite coaching, competition and the imperative to win), which were associated with senior organizational roles.

Some older adults were unsure about the ‘right amount’ of physical activity for someone of their age [ 38 ]. As in other age groups, the lack of realistic role models in the community was a deterrent. Exercise prescriptions were perceived as targeted at young people and not relevant to older groups. Porter [ 31 ] found that older people were anxious about returning to physical activity and identified cost and time barriers as the main problems.

This paper has reviewed the qualitative research into the reasons for participation and non-participation of UK adults and children in sport and physical activity. The review covered all qualitative papers relating to sport and physical activity in the United Kingdom from 1990 to 2004.

Although we did find >20 studies, few studies met the basic qualitative research quality criteria of reporting a theoretical framework [ 45 ]. It would appear that little theory is being generated empirically and suggests that any understanding of reasons for participation and non-participation in physical activity in the United Kingdom may be limited.

Shaw and Hoeber [ 44 ] provide one example of the benefits a theoretical framework brings to qualitative research in their analysis of the gendered nature of discourses in three national sporting bodies. Their feminist discourse analysis framework directed the research toward the particular forms of language used in a specific social setting and the implications of this language for marginalizing some groups while supporting the dominance of others. The authors used this framework to show how the masculine discourses used in senior positions actively reduced the career opportunities for women, while men were shown to be actively deterred from regional development officer posts by the feminine discourse surrounding these roles.

Motivations and barriers to participation

Fun, enjoyment and social support for aspects of identity were reported more often as predictors of participation and non-participation than perceived health benefits. For young children and teenage girls in particular, pressure to conform to social stereotypes is a key motivator. Along with older groups, children see enjoyment and social interaction with peers as reasons to be physically active. Although girls report a willingness to be active, this must be on their own terms in a safe non-threatening environment.

A clear opposition can be seen between girls wanting to be physically active and at the same time feminine [ 25 ] and the strong macho culture of school and extracurricular sport [ 46 ]. One area where the evidence base is strong is the negative impact which school PE classes have on participation of young girls. Changing PE uniforms, providing single sex classes and offering alternate, non-competitive forms of PE are easy, realistic ways in which PE could be changed and which the research suggests would improve long-term participation. Additionally, teachers need to take a more active role in ensuring that students are involved and enjoying PE classes. There appears to be some change in this area. The Youth Sports Trust/Nike Girls Project ‘Girls in Sport’ program involved 64 schools across England with the intention of creating ‘girl-friendly’ forms of PE and with changing school practices and community attitudes [ 47 ]. Preliminary results show changes in the style of teaching in PE, ‘girl-friendly’ changing rooms, positive role models for girls in sport, extended and new types of activities, relaxed emphasis on PE kit and an emphasis on rewarding effort as well as achievement.

A number of papers reviewed made the point that the role models for children and young adults are usually beautiful and thin in the case of women and muscular in the case of men. The desire to be thin and, in the case of girls, feminine, leads to increased motivation to be physically active [ 28 ]. This desire is not as strong in older populations and from the mid-20s on, role models with a perfect body have a negative effect on participation [ 43 ].

While the masculine nature of organized and semi-organized sport culture marginalizes women, this review has shown that groups of men are also marginalized. Robertson [ 34 ] has suggested a rethinking of youth sports and in particular the links between sport and masculine identities. Identity formation is a key transition in adolescence, and there is some evidence that physical activity advances identity development. Kendzierski [ 48 ] reported that individuals with an exercise self-schema (self-perception as a physically active person) tended to be active more often and in more types of activity than those with a non-exercise schema (self-perception as not physically active). This relationship between leisure activity and identity may also be dependent on gender and the gendered nature of activities [ 49 ]. Alternate models of sporting clubs, such as those in which children can try a number of traditional and non-traditional sports in one place, could also provide improved take up and maintenance of participation.

Implications for the promotion of sport and physical activity

… throughout the sport and physical activity sector the quality and availability of data on facilities, participation, long term trends, behavioural and other factors is very poor [ 11 ] (p. 14).

Little is known about the reasons why people do and do not participate in physical activity and the relationship between their levels of participation and different stages in their lives. A number of the papers reviewed [ 29 , 34 , 35 ] found that significant shifts in the life course have implications for participation in physical activity. A mix of quantitative and qualitative methods could build an evidence base to understand changes to sport and physical activity at critical transitional phases during childhood, adolescence and adult life. This review provides a starting point for new work.

This review has identified qualitative studies of the reasons for and barriers to participation in sport and physical activity. Participation is motivated by enjoyment and the development and maintenance of social support networks. Barriers to participation include transitions at key stages of the life course and having to reorient individual identities during these times. The theoretical and evidence base informing policy and health promotion is limited and more work needs to be done in this area.

None declared.

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  • J Athl Train
  • v.36(2); Apr-Jun 2001

Qualitative Inquiry in Athletic Training: Principles, Possibilities, and Promises

William A. Pitney, EdD, ATC/L, contributed to conception and design and drafting, critical revision, and final approval of the article. Jenny Parker, EdD, contributed to conception and design and critical revision and final approval of the article.

To discuss the principles of qualitative research and provide insights into how such methods can benefit the profession of athletic training.


The growth of a profession is influenced by the type of research performed by its members. Although qualitative research methods can serve to answer many clinical and professional questions that help athletic trainers navigate their socioprofessional contexts, an informal review of the Journal of Athletic Training reveals a paucity of such methods.


We provide an overview of the characteristics of qualitative research and common data collection and analysis techniques. Practical examples related to athletic training are also offered.


Athletic trainers interact with other professionals, patients, athletes, and administrators and function in a larger society. Consequently, they are likely to face critical influences and phenomena that affect the meaning they give to their experiences. Qualitative research facilitates a depth of understanding related to our contexts that traditional research may not provide. Furthermore, qualitative research complements traditional ways of thinking about research itself and promotes a greater understanding related to specific phenomena. As the profession of athletic training continues to grow, qualitative research methods will assume a more prominent role. Thus, it will be necessary for consumers of athletic training research to understand the functional aspects of the qualitative paradigm.

In a recent publication, Knight and Ingersoll 1 suggested that the growth of the athletic training profession depends in part on the scholarly activity performed by its members. Research, as one form of scholarly activity, plays an essential role in revealing cause and effect, making associations among concepts, making comparisons, gaining insights, guiding decision making, and developing a sound knowledge base. As Weissinger et al 2 stated, one potential influencing factor involved with the development of a body of knowledge in a profession is an expansion of the methods used to collect and analyze data.

An informal appraisal of the past athletic training research in the Journal of Athletic Training reveals that quantitative research methods are currently a widely used form of inquiry. This is certainly not surprising given the scientific nature of the profession and the research questions that have been asked and answered within this paradigm. Although quantitative research has surely contributed to the advancement of knowledge and subsequent health care delivery in athletic training, we must recognize that both researchers and clinicians ask many questions that warrant the use of alternative methods. The purpose of our article, therefore, is to offer a first step in facilitating an understanding of qualitative inquiry within the field of athletic training. This article is divided into 3 main sections. In the first section, we will explain the primary characteristics of qualitative research. The second section focuses on common data collection and data analysis procedures. Finally, in the third section, we will discuss the future directions of qualitative research in athletic training. Throughout this article we will provide practical examples and possibilities, including how qualitative research can inform athletic trainers.


The quantitative research paradigm takes a positivistic stance. That is, this paradigm assumes that a single objective reality exists, 3 which is ascertainable by our senses and logical extensions of our senses 4 (eg, microscopes, electrocardiograms, electromyograms). We can, therefore, measure and observe components of this single reality and test hypotheses about how one component affects another. The qualitative research paradigm, on the other hand, is based on the postmodern philosophical idea that multiple realities exist. Consequently, rather than our world being one objective and measurable entity, it is a subjective phenomenon that needs to be interpreted. 3 The qualitative paradigm recognizes that the meaning people give to situations and phenomena is crucial for understanding a particular context. 5 However, qualitative and quantitative methods are more than just different ways of researching the same items. Rather, they answer different types of questions, have different strengths, and use different techniques. 6

Qualitative researchers are especially concerned with how people develop meaning out of their lived experiences. 7 Moreover, qualitative research is based on the idea that meaning is socially constructed. That is, meaning is created based on personal interactions with others and our environment and the perceptions we give to our lived experiences. Therefore, qualitative researchers rely on a combination of textual data from interviews, conversations, and field notes rather than attempting to reduce meaning to numbers for comparative purposes.

Qualitative research can also be known as naturalistic inquiry, interpretive research, phenomenologic research, ethnography, and even descriptive research. Although qualitative inquiry can be performed in a variety of ways, common tenets are shared in this paradigm. Patton 8 discussed these common tenets as themes of qualitative inquiry. At a fundamental level, Patton 8 stated, qualitative inquiry is based on naturalistic inquiry, a holistic perspective, a focus on processes, inductive analysis, qualitative data, personal insights, case orientation, empathetic neutrality, and flexibility of design.

Qualitative researchers prefer natural or real-world settings. They do not attempt to control variables, manipulate procedures, create research or comparison groups, or isolate a particular phenomenon. Rather, qualitative researchers immerse themselves in a naturally occurring setting to observe and understand it. Thus, qualitative research tends to take a holistic perspective to inquiry. As such, the entire phenomenon under investigation is understood as a complete system rather than isolated events.

Qualitative research is most appropriate for answering questions relative to processes, site-specific phenomena, contexts, programs, or situations in which little is already known. As an example, “by what processes and in what ways have athletic trainers improved health care delivery in a rural school district?” is a question that is best answered using qualitative methods. “What is the economic impact of athletic trainers working in a rural school district?” is best answered using quantitative methods because economic factors are best measured with numbers. 9 An additional example is “in what way does approved clinical instructor status improve the educational delivery to student athletic trainers during their clinical education?” Such a question warrants qualitative methods because the approved clinical instructor programs will be new in the near future and little is known about the influence such programs will have on student learning.

Additionally, qualitative research is flexible and dynamic in that a researcher can choose which data to collect and how during the research process. In fact, qualitative research has metaphorically been compared with jazz music 10 because of the improvisation and flexibility needed to appropriately adapt the methods as findings unfold. Therefore, once researchers initiate a qualitative study and collect data, they need to be prepared to change their procedures and tactics as the process evolves and new insights are gained.

Qualitative research is inductive as opposed to deductive. The researcher begins with specific data and moves toward building general patterns. 8 That is, whereas an experimental design requires that a hypothesis be stated before the study in an attempt to either prove or disprove it, a qualitative study allows various dimensions to unfold or emerge, thus permitting hypotheses to become a product of the research. Moreover, qualitative inquiry is interpretive in that a researcher gathers a large amount of data with the intent of theorizing about the problem or phenomenon under investigation. Qualitative methods are a fundamental research strategy for many of the social sciences, including sociology and anthropology. Although qualitative research is derived from various epistemologic, philosophical, and methodologic traditions, 8 at its foundation are phenomenology and symbolic interactionism. 3

Phenomenology focuses on an individual's experience, how people create their view of the world around them, and how they interact with their environment. 11 Researchers using a phenomenologic approach seek both a rich description of a context and a depth of understanding and meaning related to specific phenomena but from the participants' perspectives. 12 In athletic training, for example, such an approach could be used to address a phenomenon related to rehabilitation noncompliance, practitioner burnout, or nontraditional student experiences in an athletic training education program. As a more specific example, practitioner burnout could be investigated qualitatively to identify stress-coping strategies. Thus, practitioners could share their perspectives and describe how they attempted to cope with stress in a specific context. Such a qualitative investigation may uncover contextual issues that facilitated the burnout process.

Symbolic interactionism is a reaction to psychology's focus on intrinsic factors (eg, motivation or stress) and sociology's emphasis on extrinsic factors (eg, social class and structure) causing a specific behavior. 13 According to Blumer, 13 the symbolic interactionist framework suggested that (1) human beings act toward objects based on the meaning that the items have for them, (2) meaning is a product of social interaction in our society, and (3) the attribution of meaning to objects through symbols is a continuous interpretive process. An example of using a symbolic interactionist's framework in athletic training is examining the professional socialization process of various contexts (eg, intercollegiate athletics, high school, or professional ranks). Additionally, such questions as how medical decisions are made in a clinical context or how athletic trainers in various subcultures develop professionally over time are potential research topics that could be addressed from the symbolic interactionist perspective. At its foundation, however, qualitative inquiry is interpretive, relies on inductive analysis, and is concerned with the meaning created by participants. The Table identifies the key differences between qualitative and quantitative research.

Comparison of Qualitative and Quantitative Research Attributes

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As with any research project involving human participants, a qualitative researcher must receive approval from an institutional review board. The review board ensures that the data collection and data analysis procedures protect the participants' anonymity. This is accomplished by giving any participants, institutions, or programs a pseudonym before any portion of the report is published. Qualitative researchers collect data in many ways, including interviews, observations, document analysis, artifacts (eg, photographs, videotapes, and tools), and surveys. Interviews and observations, however, are 2 of the most commonly used methods of gathering data in qualitative research. The following section will explain the observation and interview process and then describe how the textual data are analyzed.


Qualitative researchers often immerse themselves in a particular context and observe participants. Observation involves recording interactions among subjects, various events, a participant's behavior, and even a description of the context by taking field notes. 11 , 14 Such observations allow the qualitative researcher not only to recognize the essence of a context but also to identify particular behavior patterns and meanings.

Observation can be participatory or nonparticipatory. With participant observation, a qualitative researcher becomes involved in the actual activity being studied. For example, an athletic training researcher interested in understanding the contextual influences and dynamics of patient interaction within the professional ranks might volunteer with a professional team during practices. During this time, the researcher could not only provide health care services (ie, participate in the setting) but also observe the natural setting to further understand the dynamics involved. Nonparticipatory involvement means that the researcher does not participate in the activity while obtaining data. Rather, he or she watches a phenomenon in its natural setting.

Interviews are conducted when a researcher needs to understand factors that cannot be observed. 8 For example, for a study conducted to gain insight into and understanding of why particular athletes play through pain, interviews would be necessary because the athlete's thoughts, feelings, and perceptions cannot be observed.

Interviews are also conducted when information about past events needs to be obtained. For example, a researcher investigating the professional socialization of intercollegiate athletic trainers may attempt to learn about the initial experiences and challenges they faced when first entering their work environment. Obviously, these experiences and challenges are not observable, so participants would need to be asked to reflect on these past events.

An interview can take many forms, including an unstructured, semistructured, or structured format. 3 , 12 Generally, however, a semistructured format is most commonly used 12 and directed by an interview guide. That is, based on the research question, an interview guide is designed to formulate a list of questions related to specific phenomena. A less structured interview guide is often preferred because it assumes that interviewees will explain, characterize, and define their contexts in unique ways. 3 Regardless of the type of interview conducted, the conversation is recorded (with the participant's permission) and transcribed. The data are then considered textual and the written words can be analyzed.


Qualitative data analysis is interpretive in nature. Harris 15 reviewed the literature regarding interpretive research and identified 3 levels of interpretation that are necessary for drawing appropriate conclusions. First, the project must be grounded in the collective understandings of the culture created among the participants. Second, the project must include the researcher's insights. Third, the project must be well linked to other research. Harris 15 added that combining interpretations at each of these 3 levels into an integrated whole is paramount in qualitative research. The researcher interviews and observes participants (or specific behaviors if watching videotapes of social interactions) and then examines the data for meaning. We must make clear, however, that with qualitative research, the data analysis is a continuous and ongoing activity that occurs simultaneously with data collection. From the moment the first interview is conducted or the first observation is made, the researcher obtains a deeper understanding of the phenomenon being studied and may, accordingly, make modifications and adjustments to the data collection techniques.

Qualitative researchers have a preference for grounded theory, that is, developing theory based on the data obtained in a study. 16 According to Strauss and Corbin, 17 textual data are initially analyzed by creating concepts and categories. The researcher reads a sentence or paragraph and then gives this incident a name or label that represents it. These conceptual statements are then reviewed and grouped into categories according to their similarities. This is similar to Lincoln and Guba's 18 process of identifying units of data, such as sentences, paragraphs, or comments, that can provide information about a particular concept in and of itself. These “units of data” are then categorized according to their similarities with other units. The following is a useful sequence based on the literature 3 , 4 , 6 , 12 that helps a reader to understand how qualitative data are analyzed. Qualitative data analysis involves (1) identifying meaningful concepts (meaning condensation), (2) grouping similar concepts together (meaning categorization), (3) labeling groups of concepts (defining the categories), (4) developing theory, (5) negatively testing the theory, and (6) comparing the theory with the relevant literature.

Initially, the transcripts and observation notes are read and a participant's meaningful statements are identified, rephrased, and abridged. For example, if a student athletic trainer hypothetically suggested in an interview that he or she “spends a great deal of time each day having student-athletes tell them about their frustrations,” this could be labeled as “listening.” Therefore, meaning is condensed, and larger portions of text are reduced and made more succinct. 12 Essentially, the concepts identified are then considered to be units of data.

Once various concepts are identified and condensed, they are compared with one another. At this time, the like concepts are grouped together into categories. The various categories, or groups of concepts, are then given labels that describe the categories. For example, using the hypothetical situation above, if a researcher had several different concepts from interviews with student athletic trainers, such as “listening,” “giving advice,” and “empathizing,” these could be categorized as “student athletic trainers' social support schemes.” The researcher then examines the categories and interprets their relationship, subsequently creating a tentative theory. As Thomas and Nelson 19 stated, the researcher attempts to “merge” categories into a holistic portrayal of the phenomenon under investigation.

The generated theory, however, must then be negatively analyzed. This means that the generated theory is tested for its plausibility. For example, after conducting 3 interviews and observing student athletic trainers for 4 weeks, a researcher identified and documented a particular sequence of social support schemes displayed by the participants. It would be necessary for this researcher to investigate the experiences of other student athletic trainers in the same or similar contexts to determine whether the theory or explanatory concepts are applicable. Moreover, a negative case analysis involves being skeptical about findings and searching for alternative explanations that link the various categories. Once the theory is developed, it is then compared with the related literature.

Although the data analysis can be done by hand using concepts printed on note cards, many computerized data analysis programs are currently available to qualitative researchers. Examples include the NUD*IST (Non-numerical, Unstructured Data require ways of Indexing, Searching and Theorizing) program, produced by QSR International (Melbourne, Australia), and The Ethnograph, produced by Qualis Research Associates (Amherst, MA). These programs offer qualitative researchers a structured database to organize concepts and categories and quickly find units of data in the transcripts.

Qualitative research is based on human interest and actively seeks to fully understand human behavior by becoming close to those being studied to expose factors that may not be identified with instruments or surveys. 8 Moreover, qualitative research tends to humanize data, problems, and issues, 20 presupposing that a phenomenon cannot be understood without empathy and introspection. 8 The researcher, however, is the primary data collection and data analysis instrument and is capable of extreme sensitivity and flexibility with regard to thoughtfully examining and organizing the data. Quantitative research, alternatively, attempts to be objective through blind experiments and collecting data with instruments that do not rely on human sensitivity. 8 A qualitative researcher's intimate involvement with participants and data often prompts the questions of researcher bias and how the reader of a qualitative research study can trust the interpretation of data.

Although quantitative research would be concerned with aspects of validity and reliability of data collection and analysis, these terms are not typically used in qualitative research. Rather, qualitative researchers are concerned with the “trustworthiness” or “authenticity” of the study. Trustworthiness of a qualitative study can be established in many ways, including triangulation, 4 , 6 , 11 peer reviews, and member checks. 3

Triangulation refers to a researcher's cross-checking information from multiple perspectives. This can entail using different investigators, different methods (ie, observations and interviews), or even different data sources. 8 Using the previous example, if a researcher was gathering data related to student athletic trainer's social support schemes, it would be wise to interview not only student athletic trainers but also student athletes, supervising staff, and clinical educators. Thus, there are multiple sources from which to collect data and subsequently triangulate the findings to ensure that the findings are accurate and make sense in a given context.

Peer review requires that a highly skilled external researcher examine the transcripts, concepts, and categories generated from the study. The examination is performed to ensure that the study was performed in a logical manner and that the insights and discoveries uncovered in the investigation are credible. A member check refers to the qualitative researcher's sharing the initial results of the study with a few participants and asking them to examine the findings relative to their own experiences to ensure that the findings are plausible from the participants' perspectives.

Although quantitative studies concern themselves with sample size, this is not the case with qualitative research. Because a goal of quantitative studies is to attempt to generalize, large sample sizes are desirable. Qualitative research seeks to gain insight and understanding about particular phenomena, cases, processes, or programs. As such, qualitative research may be conducted with one participant or multiple participants, depending on the context or phenomenon under investigation.


Many professions have affirmed the value and impact that qualitative inquiry can have on professional practice. In fact, many journals have committed to publishing qualitative research projects. Examples relative to athletic training include Qualitative Health Research, Social Science and Medicine, The Gerontologist, Family Medicine, Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, Advanced Nursing Science, 21 Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, Sociology of Sport Journal, International Review of Sport Sociology, and the British Medical Journal. Although athletic training is largely a scientific field of study, we must recognize the potential promise qualitative research offers to help us further understand our professional roles in a social context.

The delivery of patient care is itself a social act that results in many interactions, which create shared meanings. 15 Athletic trainers associate with other professionals, patients, athletes, and administrators and, therefore, function in a larger society. Moreover, we cannot divorce ourselves from our context and the influences that affect us as health care providers. Consequently, we are likely to face critical influences and phenomena that affect the meaning we create. Qualitative research can facilitate a better understanding of phenomena and allow athletic trainers to better navigate their socioprofessional environments.

Arguments about whether quantitative or qualitative research has more merit have raged for many years 19 and have produced many debates and propositions. An either-or relationship, however, should not exist between qualitative and quantitative methods because, as we have discussed in this article, they answer different types of questions that facilitate an understanding of our professional roles and responsibilities. In many instances, a study can use both quantitative and qualitative methods in a mixed-methods approach. As an example, Hughes et al 22 used a mixed-methods approach to study the appeal of designer drinks among young people. These authors conducted group interviews (focus groups) to explore attitudes related to drinking and then used the qualitative results to inform the development of the questionnaire for the quantitative portion of the study. Furthermore, when a quantitative study uncovers a nuance or unexpected finding related to the human condition, a qualitative analysis could be integrated to gain a better understanding of the situation. The idea of combining methods, however, is not without debate. The multimethod approach is often contended because of the broad theoretical differences. 23

When both the quantitative and qualitative paradigms are understood, valued, and sometimes integrated, the breadth and depth of knowledge in athletic training can expand and positively influence the lives of patients, clinicians, educators, and student athletic trainers. We have written this article to provide an initial step toward a better understanding of the basic principles of qualitative research for the readership of the Journal of Athletic Training. For a more comprehensive understanding of the qualitative research paradigm, we direct those interested to investigate the references and suggested readings listed below.


  • Research article
  • Open access
  • Published: 22 October 2018

A qualitative investigation of the role of sport coaches in designing and delivering a complex community sport intervention for increasing physical activity and improving health

  • Louise Mansfield   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0003-4332-4366 1 ,
  • Tess Kay 1 ,
  • Nana Anokye 2 &
  • Julia Fox-Rushby 3  

BMC Public Health volume  18 , Article number:  1196 ( 2018 ) Cite this article

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Community sport can potentially help to increase levels of physical activity and improve public health. Sport coaches have a role to play in designing and implementing community sport for health. To equip the community sport workforce with the knowledge and skills to design and deliver sport and empower inactive participants to take part, this study delivered a bespoke training package on public health and recruiting inactive people to community sport for sport coaches. We examined the views of sport coach participants about the training and their role in designing and delivering a complex community sport intervention for increasing physical activity and improving health.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with paid full-time sport coaches ( n  = 15) and community sport managers and commissioners ( n  = 15) with expertise in sport coaching. Interviews were conducted by a skilled interviewer with in-depth understanding of community sport and sport coach training, transcribed verbatim and analysed using thematic analysis.

Three key themes were identified showing how the role of sport coaches can be maximised in designing and delivering community sport for physical activity and health outcomes, and in empowering participants to take part. The themes were: (1) training sport coaches in understanding public health, (2) public involvement in community sport for health, and (3) building collaborations between community sport and public health sectors.

Training for sport coaches is required to develop understandings of public health and skills in targeting, recruiting and retaining inactive people to community sport. Public involvement in designing community sport is significant in empowering inactive people to take part. Ongoing knowledge exchange activities between the community sport and public health sector are also required in ensuring community sport can increase physical activity and improve public health.

Peer Review reports

Regular physical activity is significant in the prevention and treatment of physical and mental health conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, some cancers, anxiety and depression [ 1 ]. Worldwide, the prevalence of physical activity at recommended levels is low. Current estimates in the UK are that approximately 20 million adults (39%) are categorised as inactive because they fail to meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity of 150 min per week of moderate intensity physical activity and strength exercise on at least 2 days [ 2 ]. Increasing population levels of physical activity can potentially improve public health. In England, the Moving More, Living More cross Government group includes representation from national lead agencies, Sport England, the Department of Health and Public Health England and recognises the role that sport can play in helping people to become more active for improved health outcomes [ 3 , 4 , 5 ]. This perspective reflects more recent debates about the potential of low intensity physical activity for improving health which challenge established physical activity for health guidelines emphasising moderate and vigorous intensity phyiscal activity [ 6 ].

Successive Sport England strategies have focused on developing sporting opportunites tailored to the needs of diverse communities of local users. With devolvement of public health priorities to local authorities in April 2013, there is a heightened significance of locally based initiatives and the role of complex community interventions for public health outcomes; those that involve several interlocking components important to successful delivery [ 7 , 8 ]. Community-centred interventions can have a positive impact on health behaviours [ 9 , 10 ]. Successful community-based health interventions are associated with extensive formative research, participatory strategies and a theoretical and practical focus on changing social norms [ 11 ].

Sport coaches have a vital role to play in changing social norms around sports through individual and community engagement and empowering or enabling participants to take part in physical activity [ 12 ]. Empowerment theory provides a useful theoretical approach for understanding the complexities of raising physical activity levels through community sport. At the community level, empowerment theory investigates people’s capacity to influence organisations and institutions which impact on their lives [ 13 , 14 ]. The theory addresses the processes by which personal and social factors of life enable and constrain behaviours, and this provides the theoretical basis of this study.

There are 1,109, 000 sport coaches in the UK primarily working in sports clubs or extra-curricular school-based programmes, with much of their expertise focused on beginners and learners and sport enthusiasts [ 15 ]. Sports coaches represent community assets in the development of sport for health programmes for inactive adults who may be apprehensive rather than enthusiastic about taking part in sport [ 12 ], yet little is known about the occupational drivers, priorities and requirements of this workforce. There is potential for them to be a resource for identifying and assessing inactive people and providing physical activity education, promotion and support in local public health environments; a role more commonly associated with routine care in GP surgeries and health centres [ 16 , 17 ]. The potential of sports clubs as a health promotion setting has been recognised [ 18 , 19 ]. Key issues have been identified in developing successful approaches to health promotion in sports clubs including the need for clear health focused strategies, adapting sports activity, ensuring a health promoting environment, enabling learning opportunities about sport for health and workforce training in public health [ 20 ]. Knowledge and skill development in the sport coach workforce is imperative to equip it to design, deliver and evaluate community sport opportunities for public health outcomes [ 21 ]. Most recent models for such workforce development advocate partnership approaches between sport and leisure providers, public health professionals and the participants for whom community sport programmes are designed and delivered [ 22 ]. The aim of this paper is to explore the role of sport coaches in designing and delivering a complex community sport intervention for increasing physical activity and improving health.

Background to the study – The health and sport engagement (HASE) project

Between March 2013 and July 2016, 32 sport coaches delivering and managing community sport in the London Borough of Hounslow were involved in a complex community sport intervention; the Health and Sport Engagement (HASE) project. The aim of the HASE project was to engage previously inactive people in sustained sporting activity for 1 × 30 min a week, examine the associated health and wellbeing outcomes of doing so, and produce information of value to those commissioning public health programmes that could potentially include sport. Full details of the HASE project are provided in the published protocol [ 23 ]. A summary of the HASE project intervention and evaluation phases is provided in Fig.  1 .

figure 1

The Health and Sport Engagement (HASE) Study overview

Design and delivery of the HASE intervention involved a collaborative partnership between local community participants, sport coaches and community sport managers/ commissioners in the London Borough of Hounslow (LBH), and sport and public health researchers at Brunel University London. Coaches were key stakeholders in the project which employed a collaborative approach to stakeholder engagement, involving them in the initial project ideas development prior to the funding application, and in formative discussions about relevant training and the content and scheduling of training. Training served not only as a form of education and skill development but as a space for on-going involvement of coaches in the co-design [ 24 ] of the training programme, the precise nature of the sport activities and their delivery and evaluation approaches.

During a 12-month delivery phase, community sport coaches delivered 682 sport sessions to 550 people in the HASE project. Community sport coaches with expertise and experience in delivering and managing sport activities and with knowledge of diverse local communities were identified as central to the successful design and implementation of community sport for inactive people. A bespoke HASE training programme was included to identify existing expertise and additional skills and knowledge requirements of community sport coaches in designing and implementing community sport for health. The HASE training schedule for sport coaches consisted of two elements:

To develop understandings of public health for sport coaches, training included The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) Level 2 Award in Understanding Health Improvement, and workshops on targeting, promoting and retaining inactive people to sport ( http://makesportfun.com/ ), and disability, inclusion and sport ( https://disabilitysportscoach.co.uk/training-workshops/ ).

To address the need for cross sector collaboration and partnership between local sport and public health groups, sports coaches and public health professionals attended a bespoke knowledge exchange workshop on getting to know and understand the roles and working practices of personnel in each sector ( http://makesportfun.com/ ).

Between March–September 2013, 32 community sport coaches were trained in the RSPH Level 2 Award in the first phase of the HASE project. Fifteen of those sport coaches were paid and full-time and they also engaged in training about targeting, recruiting and retaining inactive people in community sport and an on-line disability in sport course. Fourteen of those additionally attended knowledge exchange activities between sport coaches and public health professionals (1 coach was unavailable due to work commitments). Knowledge exchange activities included demonstrations of adapted sports activities, a ‘meet and greet’ event in which coaches and health professionals were paired to talk and exchange professional information, then paired with another expert at 5-min intervals, and a discussion forum about the strategy and mechanism of local authority public health referral scheme.

The HASE project included a mixed methods evaluation of the outcomes, processes and costs of the complex community sport intervention. Process evaluations are recommended in examining the efficacy of complex interventions and have value in multisite projects where the same interventions are tailored to the specific contexts and delivered and received in diverse ways [ 25 ]. Process evaluations using qualitative methods can complement research designs that assess effectiveness and efficiency quantitatively [ 26 ], by providing in-depth knowledge from those delivering and receiving the interventions. Evaluating the design, implementation, mechanisms of impact, and contextual factors that create different intervention effects can support the development of optimal complex community interventions and contribute to decision making about whether it is feasible to proceed to a larger scale trial [ 27 ]. This study presents findings from the interviews with sport coaches and community sport managers or commissioners with expertise in sport coaching which formed part of the process evaluation in the HASE project.

Data collection

Taking a pragmatic approach to evaluation to ensure timely, practice relevant yet rigorous research [ 28 ] the 15 sport coaches who had been trained in the RSPH Level 2 Award, attended the workshops and completed the on-line disability in sport course were invited for interview. All but one of those had also attended the knowledge exchange workshops with public health professionals. Fifteen community sport managers or commissioners with knowledge of sport coaching and involved in developing the HASE intervention and evaluation were also invited to interview. Thirty telephone interviews were conducted with paid full-time sport coaches ( n  = 15) and community sport managers and commissioners ( n  = 15) with expertise in sport coaching.

Semi structured interviews were conducted by one researcher (LM) for consistency of questioning. The aims of these interviews were twofold: (1) to examine the aspirations and logic underpinning design, delivery, promotion, and commissioning of sport for health projects, and (2) to examine the experiences and views of the HASE training. The interview guide can be found in Additional file  1 . The interview data helped to determine the role of the sports coach in designing and delivering a complex community sport intervention for increasing physical activity and improving health. In this paper direct quotes are included in the results and respondents referred to by gender, self-reported job and coaching role and years of experience (YE).

Interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Interview data were managed via NVivo 11 software and through the collation of tables and data matrices using Word 2010. The principles of thematic analysis were employed in this study. Thematic analysis allows the organisation, detailed description and scrutiny of patterns of meaning in qualitative data [ 29 , 30 , 31 ]. Analysis involved repeated reading, by two researchers (LM and TK), of interview transcripts, to determine the details of the data and to enable researchers to identify key themes and patterns in it. Themes were identified by theoretical approaches focused on our analytical interest in empowerment in community sport interventions, and by inductive (data-driven) approaches drawing directly from the data produced. Coding frameworks were devised by two researchers (LM and TK). Discrepancies were resolved by discussion and the codes and themes verified by all researchers (LM, TK, NA, JF-R) in a process of identifying, refining and interpreting key themes [ 32 ]. Anonymised quotes from interviewees are provided as evidence form our study. Punctuation was added to unambiguous quotes and where necessary, words added in parentheses to clarify intended meaning.

Interviewees had been employed in the community sport sector for between 6 months and 25 years. Interviews lasted between 18 and 50 min and the mean interview length was 26 min. Three key themes were identified from the interview data that illustrate the significance and role of the sport coach in designing and delivering community sport for physical activity and health outcomes, and in empowering participants to take part: (1) training sport coaches in understanding public health, (2) public involvement in community sport for health, and (3) building collaborations between community sport and public health. We present the results in sections to reflect the identified themes although we are mindful that the themes overlap.

Training sport coaches in understanding public health

Phase 1 of the HASE project provided training for sport coaches and instructors to develop knowledge and understanding of public health and of targeting, recruiting and retaining inactive people to sport for health programmes. There was recognition amongst the HASE workforce of the potential for their work in community sport to support public health outcomes through the informal connections between health and their existing qualifications and experience:

we’ve always recognised that it’s (sport) physical activity and health going hand in hand…..Yes this is about sport…but… it’s about engagement, it’s about physical activity, it’s about meaningful activity for young people and adults to gain confidence and skills, but actually it’s linked into health and healthy lifestyles as well (M,Community Sport Manager and Sport Coach, 15YE).

The need for sports coaches to engage in training to develop their understanding of public health and their ability to deliver to health outcomes was also recognised. The training was delivered in two forms – an RSPH Level 2 award, and bespoke training workshops commissioned through the HASE project.

Royal Society for public health (RSPH) level 2 award in understanding health improvement

The RSPH level 2 Award provided HASE sports coaches with the time and space to think about the relationships between sport and health and consider the significance of public health for their work. Those who participated expressed great enthusiasm for the training and emphasised that it had provided them with new knowledge and approaches that were highly relevant to their role in enabling people to become more active. The training was very highly valued:

I’m really glad I took those courses…it changed how I did things…. especially the behaviour change parts …and the (health) things they encourage you to think about … with different groups… also the social and emotional aspect of that (physical activity and health)… it really helped …understand inactivity …and help people (M, Community Leader and Sport Coach, 5YE). It just gave me some space to think about health…and how what I do can link to public health issues (M, Community Sport Coach, 5YE).

A particularly important aspect of the delivery of the RSPH course was tailoring the information and subsequently the activities and their delivery to local population characteristics in Hounslow and to the requirements and priorities of the HASE workforce in supporting people to raise their physical activity levels:

the Hounslow portion of that training was amazing, that was brilliant, I really liked it. I thought that it was crazy that people that live in Chiswick lived four years, on average, four years longer than people that live you know in like other parts of Hounslow for example. I can now talk to kids about health ..through sport (M, Community Sport Coach, 4YE).

Bespoke training workshops: Targeting, recruiting and retaining inactive participants

The workshops focusing on targeting, recruiting and retaining inactive people to sport gave sport coaches the knowledge and time to effectively plan their programmes:

The workshops I thought were really good. I think when you’re actually discussing the practicalities, logistics, in reality how can we do this it’s definitely good to give you a chance to have discussions and actually properly sit down and plan. And I was able to go from one workshop, try something in the middle and then come back to the next one and talk about actually I did this and it worked. That sort of camaraderie in a way leaves you feeling motivated, ready to go. (F, Physical Activity Manager and Sport Coach Commissioner, 8YE).

The workshops also helped sports coaches develop knowledge about best practice in supporting and engaging inactive groups in community sport:

The qualification (RSPH) and those workshops are the right approach … they are about saying this is what we know now…this is the best way of doing it….it’s a forum where it brings people together where people meet on a course and then they’ve gone off and developed a programme together (M, Community Sport Commissioner, 15YE).
One of the key things was being in the mix with so many people from different sports... everyone had different stories to talk about, different experiences …knowledge …expertise to share (F, Community Coach Volunteer, 5YE).

Public involvement in community sport for health

Sport coaches identified the involvement of potential participants as important to the co-design and implementation of the community sports. Involving potential participants in designing their local sport offer was viewed as a way for sport coaches to identify both the physical activity and sporting needs of potential participants. It was also way for sport coaches to think about, understand and respond to practical barriers to participation but also the complex personal and social conditions, experiences and views that make taking part difficult; a key tenet of empowerment approaches:

outreach….you’ve got to invest some time in it…..speaking to a captive audience …encouraging them and actually I think there was a desire, they did want to be active but the barrier was the transport and their own physical ability. So knowing that ….and having that barrier taken away from them, it was then easy to attract them in (F, Community Sports Development Manager and Sport Coach, 20YE). you have to make a connection with them …..these people are unemployed, they’ve got housing problems, they’re not working, and also they’ve got addicted to something… you have to sit down with them….discuss with them. It’s someone they can listen to… (M, Community Leader and Sport Coach, 5YE).

Specifically, public involvement was identified as a way to enable sport coaches to recognise diversity and inequality and its impact on physical activity:

(Hounslow) is more diverse. Not everyone in a group goes to the local community centre for activity …not all Asian groups are the same. We need ways of understanding people a bit better …what are some of the conflicts they’re having…so we can offer solutions to (health) problems and not give them another thing they have to do (F, Community Sport Commissioner, 10YE)

Sport coaches supported the use of community focus groups, ‘meet the coach’ and taster sessions as effective forms of public involvement. These activities were important in facilitating active participation of potential participants and in helping community sport coachesto make the right decisions about the implementation of local community sport. Public involvement activities were viewed as a form of collective ownership of the community sport service:

in the past, it’s just been putting on activities and hoping that people turn up if it’s marketed. That’s not attracting the right (inactive) people. For our work …..to be embedded within the communities that you want to work within requires local people to get on board….we need to get out and meet them to reach the people that’s the hard to reach or most at need … we wanted to have more of a relationship with our participants…so we can decide and act together (F, Physical Activity Project Coordinator, 3YE).

For the sport coach workforce, working with participants was a form of community empowerment. It enabled potential participants to influence the development of community sport and physical activity programmes:

I don’t think there’s any point you just putting something on. Present it, get feedback, discuss it and make decisions together. if people are a bit more informed and actually really understand what the drive is behind it, then everything makes more sense you know… it empowers you a little bit to think…and understand…to take ownership of a project (F, School-Community PE Specialist, 25YE).

Building collaborations between community sport and public health

Collaborative working between researchers, local and national sport policy makers, community sport coaches, managers and commissioners, public health professionals and participants defined the design, delivery and evaluation of the HASE project overall. The London Borough of Hounslow had an established network of community sport and physical activity partners operating through a CSPAN (Community Sport and Physical Activity Network). This forum was important to the inception and implementation of the project:

I think the [HASE] approach suits Hounslow really well …six years ago, we were still working very much in siloes and everybody was doing their own thing. Since then we’ve had everybody working together on the community sports, this connectivity network …all our projects are about partnership work across the borough, across the range of services, and across a range of boroughs, that’s linking in and sharing expertise and resources (F, Community Sport Development Lead, 20YE).

Two aspects of collaborative working were identified by the interviewees: knowledge exchange, and partnership approaches.

Knowledge exchange

The opportunity for knowledge exchange between different sport coaches and public health professionals was central to successful partnerships and for sustained delivery of community sport for health outcomes:

The knowledge exchange was powerful for me because I could see there’s a lot of opportunity …for communities to bind themselves together by way of sport, and to give those people a healthy option in order to live a better life (M, Community Sport Coach, 10YE). that knowledge exchange workshop…it was the first time I came into contact with some of those people who did those various jobs. There was the health trainers…I didn’t even know they existed to be honest! So it was interesting to find out how they work with their clients and maybe if they’re looking to refer them to like organisations such as ourselves where they can do regular exercise then there’s maybe a partnership (M, Community Sport Coach, 5YE).

The challenges of promoting public health through community sport, and developing more systematic, collaborative and larger scale working relationships between community sport and local health agencies, were recognised:

Physical activity is a core area in public health. Sport - I think it’s very relevant …for me it’s a new role and the problem is that sports clubs can sometimes be a bit cliquey… you’ve got those added complexities…confidence…what to wear…not knowing anyone. But, having said that, you know, then sports clubs can have quite a nice social side, which gives another added dimension to people and makes them feel part of a community and to have something additional that they can engage with in a really positive way, but it’s just how that happens and how you get to that point (F, Community Sport Commissioner, 10YE).

However, the significance of HASE planning and training activities in enabling partnership working between public health professionals and community sport coaches for health outcomes dominated the views:

I was hesitant but I did learn a lot …I am going to work together with the Hounslow Homes project now (F, Community sport coach, 20YE). I’ve now got a relationship with Integrated Neurological Services and we’re working on developing and delivering a programme (F, Physical Activity Manager and Sport Coach Commissioner, 8YE). My coaches are understanding more about the health agenda and people within health are understanding more about the positivity of doing sport and physical activity as well…local connections worked really well (M, Senior Community Sport Manager and Sport Coach, 15YE).

Partnerships, pathways for recruitment and promoting sport for health

Partnership working in public health commonly involves strategies for bringing people together and enabling engagement, making pathways for recruitment and issues of promotion and communication key. A core ambition for commissioners, managers and sport coaches in this study was for the development of a referral system for community sport activities, based on existing referral approaches in public health that could develop a partnership between public health and community sport in working with inactive communities:

I think that going forward we’re trying to engage a large amount of inactive people, what would work well is referrals into a programme. Self-referrals or GPs or health trainers are a key to referring to community sport. And then also there’s that knowledge exchange from sports clubs, coaching professionals and volunteers, to understand how health professionals do their work ….and help them signpost to us (M, Director, Community Health Organisation, 8YE). I feel that there needs to be an agreed way forward in the whole Borough… for a referral process…recognising and going out to physical activity deliverers so if in public health you’re sitting there doing your individual target sheet with your client, they want to get fit, they have mobility issues, they’re over 60 or whatever, refer them to me, contact me (F, Physical Activity Project Coordinator, 3YE).

Sport coaches and those involved in commissioning community sport identified established public health strategies, theoretical approaches and pathways to recruitment as relevant to the work of sport coaches:

my starting point..for community sport …would be around NICE guidance that clearly states there’s an evidenced way of doing things…quite complex and requires a certain skill base ….but actually when people have done that work it’s a lot easier and we need sport delivery teams to know about giving advice and motivating people take part (F, Community Sport Commissioner, and Sports Coach 10YE). have sport coaches understand behaviour change …advising and motivating …is quite important (M, Commissioner, 15YE).

A more formalised role for sport coaches in engaging and supporting inactive people to become active through community sport was identified:

you could see a role for a physical activity activator or sport champion …giving support to inactive people to get active … understanding everything, .helping decisions, signposting to relevant services (M, Director, Community Health Organisation, 8YE).

The common theme in discussions about recruiting and signposting to community sport was the idea of moving beyond traditional health promotion messages associated with exercise prescription to a focus on knowledge and understanding about the role of sport for health and enabling people to take part:

(we have to) avoid very old health messages about exercise as something else they have to do. I think better ways of messaging are with some of the behaviour change ways …but through understanding people so it’s more for them (F, Community Sport Commissioner, 10YE)

Principal findings

This study recognised that engaging inactive people in sport lies outside sports coaches previous experience and aimed to equip them for this new role. All interviewees agreed that formal training via the RSPH Level 2 Award was a key ingredient for increasing sports coaches’ knowledge and understanding about public health. Bespoke workshops on targeting, recruiting and retaining inactive people to community sport allowed coaches to develop their skills and knowledge and maximise the potential for raising physical activity levels in their work. Public involvement was also unanimously viewed as essential to better understanding of the barriers and facilitators to sport for diverse community groups. Moreover, it was identified as a way to understand better and attempt to resolve the complex personal and social experiences that mitigate against taking part. Engaging potential participants in the design of community sports projects was found to be important in appropriately tailoring community sport programmes. Public involvement allowed a focus on collective ownership of the content and delivery of community sport and was considered central to successful participant engagement. On-going opportunities for knowledge exchange between sport coaches and public health professionals was recognised as a pathway to sharing best practice in identifying, supporting and empowering inactive people to become more active. A more formal role for sport coaches in delivering community sport to increase levels of physical activity was articulated as important by our interviewees.

Overall, the need for partnerships between local public health and community sport sectors was advocated for successful service delivery of community sport for inactive people. Yet, the significant challenges of promoting public health through community sport were identified. Overcoming the negative perceptions of sport and addressing the problems of ensuring more systematic, collaborative and larger scale working relationships between community sport and public health organisations were identified.

Contribution to knowledge

The findings support the work that has identified sports coaches as potential community assets, helping local communities to address public health concerns around raising levels of physical activity [ 12 , 21 ]. In addition, the study adds to and develops further the conclusions of other studies which contend that sports coaches have a wider role than the teaching of sport skills to play in individual and community development of life skills [ 33 ], positive social behaviours [ 34 ], and supporting mental health [ 35 ]. While others have identified that sports coaches are not routinely trained in public health or the needs of inactive populations [ 21 ], this study shows that with the right training and partnership arrangements sports coaches have the potential to identify inactive people and engage and support them in tailored community sport programmes. They can, therefore, offer both a complementary and additional service in public health behaviour change broadly, one which is typically linked with the work of GPs or practice nurses [ 16 , 17 , 22 ]. The processes by which sports coaches in this study engaged and supported inactive people to take part in community sport reflects the significance of strategies reported in the wider literature which seek to develop understandings of complex and diverse personal and social experiences which make it difficult for people to participate including youth [ 36 ], age and ageing [ 37 ], disability [ 38 ], gender [ 39 ], sexual orientation [ 40 ], socio-economic status [ 41 ] and the environment [ 42 ] and crucially the intersections of such socio-cultural, environmental and individual issues. Pedagogical implications for coaches are revealed in this study. Supporting inactive people to become involved in community sport for health requires learning in practice and our findings indicate the salience of developing innovative health-related pedagogical skills and knowledge for the coaching workforce [ 43 ]. This also requires recognition of the complex reality of designing and delivering sport for inactive people and a more innovative approach to coaching; one that is not solely based on competencies but recognises the need to build, enhance and apply different skills and knowledge in reaching and engaging diverse groups of inactive people with a range of health and wellbeing needs in community sport [ 44 ]. This study illustrates the importance for researchers and practitioners, of developing theoretical and applied work that moves beyond established behaviour change approaches to physical activity to consider complex everyday relationships, and develop knowledge and understanding about the challenges of and best practice in empowering people to take part in community sport for health and wellbeing. It also illustrates the scope for drawing on work from the social sciences that provides deeper understandings of social diversity in sport and physical activity which can be applied in supporting those who find it most difficult to take part [ 45 , 46 , 47 , 48 ]. These findings support those from studies that have argued for public involvement in community health projects to improve service quality, programme relevance, participant engagement and satisfaction, and health outcomes [ 49 ]. The present study also reinforces the potential in co-design approaches for ensuring that the needs of all stakeholders are addressed and that there is shared ownership and responsibility for project outcomes [ 50 , 51 ]. The findings support calls for workforce development, knowledge exchange and partnership approaches in the community sport sector to reflect public health concerns connected to raising physical activity levels [ 22 , 52 ]. It is emphasised that there remain challenges in overcoming negative perceptions of sport and in scaling up public health and community sport partnerships for population level change in physical activity.

Strengths and weaknesses

The study was part of a rigorous mixed methods study design for which there is a published protocol. The use of one interviewer provided some consistency in questioning and the sample included a diverse range of stakeholders centrally involved in community sport coaching or the management and commissioning of coaching. Interviews were conducted by the project lead who was involved in other aspects of the research providing some consistency and a systematic approach to data collection and analysis throughout the project.

The sample was self-selecting which can create some bias in the data. One coach did not attend the knowledge exchange workshop due to other work-related commitments and may have had an experience and views on that aspect of the training which could have affected the findings.

Implications for practice and research

Sport coaches have a role in designing and delivering complex community sport interventions for increasing physical activity and improving health. However, there is a need to understand how the knowledge and skill set of this workforce can be advanced for them to realise their potential as community resources in public health. This study has identified that it is possible to build capacity for delivering sport for health programmes by training sports coaches in public health, building locally specific knowledge about inactive communities through public involvement strategies, facilitating cross-sector knowledge exchange and encouraging partnership working between sport and public health sector experts. There is an increasing focus on community sport delivery for public health outcomes. Such delivery is complex and there is a need for research to focus on developing the evidence base on the processes involved in sport coach delivery and the impact of sport coaches on the successes, impacts and outcomes of interventions to support intervention design. It is equally important that findings of such research are disseminated in useful and useable ways, and in varied forms to different stakeholders and user groups so they can capitalise on and use the evidence in their policy and practice work.


Complex community sport interventions have the potential to engage inactive people to increase physical activity for health. Such interventions are likely to be delivered by sport coaches whose knowledge and expertise in public health and recruiting inactive people to sport is partial. This study has shown that with the right training, sport coaches can develop and apply their knowledge and understanding of public health and their skills in targeting, recruiting and retaining inactive people to community sport. The findings emphasise the importance of public involvement in supporting engagement of inactive people in community sport. In addition, the study has shown that through knowledge exchange between the community sport and public health sectors, there is potential for reciprocal partnership arrangements to develop that could further equip sport coaches with the knowledge and skills to design and implement community sport and potentially develop population level interventions for increasing physical activity, reducing inactivity and improving public health.


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LM, TK, AN, JF-R made substantial contributions to conception and design, or acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data in the Health and Sport Engagmeent Project. LM, TK, AN and JF-R have been involved in drafting the manuscript and revising it critically for important intellectual content. LM, TK, AN and JF-R have given final approval of the version to be published and agreed to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

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Mansfield, L., Kay, T., Anokye, N. et al. A qualitative investigation of the role of sport coaches in designing and delivering a complex community sport intervention for increasing physical activity and improving health. BMC Public Health 18 , 1196 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-018-6089-y

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qualitative research questions examples in sport

Qualitative Research Questions: Gain Powerful Insights + 25 Examples

We review the basics of qualitative research questions, including their key components, how to craft them effectively, & 25 example questions.

Einstein was many things—a physicist, a philosopher, and, undoubtedly, a mastermind. He also had an incredible way with words. His quote, "Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted," is particularly poignant when it comes to research. 

Some inquiries call for a quantitative approach, for counting and measuring data in order to arrive at general conclusions. Other investigations, like qualitative research, rely on deep exploration and understanding of individual cases in order to develop a greater understanding of the whole. That’s what we’re going to focus on today.

Qualitative research questions focus on the "how" and "why" of things, rather than the "what". They ask about people's experiences and perceptions , and can be used to explore a wide range of topics.

The following article will discuss the basics of qualitative research questions, including their key components, and how to craft them effectively. You'll also find 25 examples of effective qualitative research questions you can use as inspiration for your own studies.

Let’s get started!

What are qualitative research questions, and when are they used?

When researchers set out to conduct a study on a certain topic, their research is chiefly directed by an overarching question . This question provides focus for the study and helps determine what kind of data will be collected.

By starting with a question, we gain parameters and objectives for our line of research. What are we studying? For what purpose? How will we know when we’ve achieved our goals?

Of course, some of these questions can be described as quantitative in nature. When a research question is quantitative, it usually seeks to measure or calculate something in a systematic way.

For example:

  • How many people in our town use the library?
  • What is the average income of families in our city?
  • How much does the average person weigh?

Other research questions, however—and the ones we will be focusing on in this article—are qualitative in nature. Qualitative research questions are open-ended and seek to explore a given topic in-depth.

According to the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry , “Qualitative research aims to address questions concerned with developing an understanding of the meaning and experience dimensions of humans’ lives and social worlds.”

This type of research can be used to gain a better understanding of people’s thoughts, feelings and experiences by “addressing questions beyond ‘what works’, towards ‘what works for whom when, how and why, and focusing on intervention improvement rather than accreditation,” states one paper in Neurological Research and Practice .

Qualitative questions often produce rich data that can help researchers develop hypotheses for further quantitative study.

  • What are people’s thoughts on the new library?
  • How does it feel to be a first-generation student at our school?
  • How do people feel about the changes taking place in our town?

As stated by a paper in Human Reproduction , “...‘qualitative’ methods are used to answer questions about experience, meaning, and perspective, most often from the standpoint of the participant. These data are usually not amenable to counting or measuring.”

Both quantitative and qualitative questions have their uses; in fact, they often complement each other. A well-designed research study will include a mix of both types of questions in order to gain a fuller understanding of the topic at hand.

If you would like to recruit unlimited participants for qualitative research for free and only pay for the interview you conduct, try using Respondent  today. 

Crafting qualitative research questions for powerful insights

Now that we have a basic understanding of what qualitative research questions are and when they are used, let’s take a look at how you can begin crafting your own.

According to a study in the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, there is a certain process researchers should follow when crafting their questions, which we’ll explore in more depth.

1. Beginning the process 

Start with a point of interest or curiosity, and pose a draft question or ‘self-question’. What do you want to know about the topic at hand? What is your specific curiosity? You may find it helpful to begin by writing several questions.

For example, if you’re interested in understanding how your customer base feels about a recent change to your product, you might ask: 

  • What made you decide to try the new product?
  • How do you feel about the change?
  • What do you think of the new design/functionality?
  • What benefits do you see in the change?

2. Create one overarching, guiding question 

At this point, narrow down the draft questions into one specific question. “Sometimes, these broader research questions are not stated as questions, but rather as goals for the study.”

As an example of this, you might narrow down these three questions: 

into the following question: 

  • What are our customers’ thoughts on the recent change to our product?

3. Theoretical framing 

As you read the relevant literature and apply theory to your research, the question should be altered to achieve better outcomes. Experts agree that pursuing a qualitative line of inquiry should open up the possibility for questioning your original theories and altering the conceptual framework with which the research began.

If we continue with the current example, it’s possible you may uncover new data that informs your research and changes your question. For instance, you may discover that customers’ feelings about the change are not just a reaction to the change itself, but also to how it was implemented. In this case, your question would need to reflect this new information: 

  • How did customers react to the process of the change, as well as the change itself?

4. Ethical considerations 

A study in the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education stresses that ethics are “a central issue when a researcher proposes to study the lives of others, especially marginalized populations.” Consider how your question or inquiry will affect the people it relates to—their lives and their safety. Shape your question to avoid physical, emotional, or mental upset for the focus group.

In analyzing your question from this perspective, if you feel that it may cause harm, you should consider changing the question or ending your research project. Perhaps you’ve discovered that your question encourages harmful or invasive questioning, in which case you should reformulate it.

5. Writing the question 

The actual process of writing the question comes only after considering the above points. The purpose of crafting your research questions is to delve into what your study is specifically about” Remember that qualitative research questions are not trying to find the cause of an effect, but rather to explore the effect itself.

Your questions should be clear, concise, and understandable to those outside of your field. In addition, they should generate rich data. The questions you choose will also depend on the type of research you are conducting: 

  • If you’re doing a phenomenological study, your questions might be open-ended, in order to allow participants to share their experiences in their own words.
  • If you’re doing a grounded-theory study, your questions might be focused on generating a list of categories or themes.
  • If you’re doing ethnography, your questions might be about understanding the culture you’re studying.

Whenyou have well-written questions, it is much easier to develop your research design and collect data that accurately reflects your inquiry.

In writing your questions, it may help you to refer to this simple flowchart process for constructing questions:

qualitative research questions examples in sport

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25 examples of expertly crafted qualitative research questions

It's easy enough to cover the theory of writing a qualitative research question, but sometimes it's best if you can see the process in practice. In this section, we'll list 25 examples of B2B and B2C-related qualitative questions.

Let's begin with five questions. We'll show you the question, explain why it's considered qualitative, and then give you an example of how it can be used in research.

1. What is the customer's perception of our company's brand?

Qualitative research questions are often open-ended and invite respondents to share their thoughts and feelings on a subject. This question is qualitative because it seeks customer feedback on the company's brand. 

This question can be used in research to understand how customers feel about the company's branding, what they like and don't like about it, and whether they would recommend it to others.

2. Why do customers buy our product?

This question is also qualitative because it seeks to understand the customer's motivations for purchasing a product. It can be used in research to identify the reasons  customers buy a certain product, what needs or desires the product fulfills for them, and how they feel about the purchase after using the product.

3. How do our customers interact with our products?

Again, this question is qualitative because it seeks to understand customer behavior. In this case, it can be used in research to see how customers use the product, how they interact with it, and what emotions or thoughts the product evokes in them.

4. What are our customers' biggest frustrations with our products?

By seeking to understand customer frustrations, this question is qualitative and can provide valuable insights. It can be used in research to help identify areas in which the company needs to make improvements with its products.

5. How do our customers feel about our customer service?

Rather than asking why customers like or dislike something, this question asks how they feel. This qualitative question can provide insights into customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction with a company. 

This type of question can be used in research to understand what customers think of the company's customer service and whether they feel it meets their needs.

20 more examples to refer to when writing your question

Now that you’re aware of what makes certain questions qualitative, let's move into 20 more examples of qualitative research questions:

  • How do your customers react when updates are made to your app interface?
  • How do customers feel when they complete their purchase through your ecommerce site?
  • What are your customers' main frustrations with your service?
  • How do people feel about the quality of your products compared to those of your competitors?
  • What motivates customers to refer their friends and family members to your product or service?
  • What are the main benefits your customers receive from using your product or service?
  • How do people feel when they finish a purchase on your website?
  • What are the main motivations behind customer loyalty to your brand?
  • How does your app make people feel emotionally?
  • For younger generations using your app, how does it make them feel about themselves?
  • What reputation do people associate with your brand?
  • How inclusive do people find your app?
  • In what ways are your customers' experiences unique to them?
  • What are the main areas of improvement your customers would like to see in your product or service?
  • How do people feel about their interactions with your tech team?
  • What are the top five reasons people use your online marketplace?
  • How does using your app make people feel in terms of connectedness?
  • What emotions do people experience when they're using your product or service?
  • Aside from the features of your product, what else about it attracts customers?
  • How does your company culture make people feel?

As you can see, these kinds of questions are completely open-ended. In a way, they allow the research and discoveries made along the way to direct the research. The questions are merely a starting point from which to explore.

This video offers tips on how to write good qualitative research questions, produced by Qualitative Research Expert, Kimberly Baker.

Wrap-up: crafting your own qualitative research questions.

Over the course of this article, we've explored what qualitative research questions are, why they matter, and how they should be written. Hopefully you now have a clear understanding of how to craft your own.

Remember, qualitative research questions should always be designed to explore a certain experience or phenomena in-depth, in order to generate powerful insights. As you write your questions, be sure to keep the following in mind:

  • Are you being inclusive of all relevant perspectives?
  • Are your questions specific enough to generate clear answers?
  • Will your questions allow for an in-depth exploration of the topic at hand?
  • Do the questions reflect your research goals and objectives?

If you can answer "yes" to all of the questions above, and you've followed the tips for writing qualitative research questions we shared in this article, then you're well on your way to crafting powerful queries that will yield valuable insights.

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Asking the right questions in the right way is the key to research success. That’s true for not just the discussion guide but for every step of a research project. Following are 100+ questions that will take you from defining your research objective through  screening and participant discussions.

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Sport Psychology Research Methods: Qualitative vs Quantitative

Qualitative and Quantitative

Qualitative and quantitative research methods are two commonly used psychological research approaches with very different procedures and objectives. It is important for researchers to understand the differences between these two modes of research in order to determine which approach is best suited to adequately address the research question. The greatest distinctions between these two fundamentally different research techniques are the genesis of theory and the role that theory plays in the mechanics of research. In the quantitative technique, the research effort begins with a theory: a statement that tries to explain observed phenomena. The theory is then operationalized (that is, stated in terms that can be statistically tested) through hypothesis. Data is gathered, statistical tests are completed, and the results are interpreted. The results either support the hypothesis or they do not. (Downey & Ireland, 1979)

Quantitative research is experimental and objective whereas qualitative research is explorative and is not in numerical form. Quantitative research is used to identify evidence of cause and effect relationships and is used to collect data from a larger population than qualitative research (Downey & Ireland, 1979). Aliaga and Gunderson (2000), explain that qualitative research is ‘Explaining phenomena by collecting numerical data that are analyzed using mathematically based methods’. It is used to quantify attitudes, opinions, behaviors, and other defined variables – and generalize results from a larger sample population.

Quantitative data collection methods are much more structured than qualitative data collection methods. Data collection methods used in qualitative research includes focus groups, triads, dyads, interviews and observation (Creswell, 2013). Qualitative data is descriptive, which is more difficult to analyze then quantitative data which is categorized, ranked, or in units of measurement. One benefit of qualitative research is the ability to observe, collect, and reach data that other methods cannot obtain. It also provides researchers with flexibility in conveying a story without the constraints of formal academic structure (Creswell, 2013). However, Berkwits and Inui (1998) explain that qualitative research is suspect in its usefulness to provide a generalize foundations for clinical decisions and policies.

Qualitative methods derive from a variety of psychological research disciplines and traditions (Crabtree & Miller, 2012). Different in many ways from quantitative research; yet qualitative research does have a quantitative connection. Qualitative research, also recognized as preliminary exploratory research, is used to capture communicative information not conveyed in quantitative data about beliefs, feelings, values, and motivations that trigger behaviors. They are used to learn directly from the participant what is important to them, to provide the context necessary to understand quantitative findings, and to identify variables important for future clinical studies (Crabtree & Miller, 2012). Qualitative research provides insights into the problem and helps to develop ideas or hypotheses for potential quantitative research.

Examining Qualitative Research

Qualitative research is primarily used in investigative research to explore a phenomenon. Creswell (2013) explains that qualitative methods should be used to study complex subjects and topics. Some subjects in which qualitative analysis is the methodology of choice include but are not limited to education, biology, behavior, health care, psychology, human resources, as well as societal issues such as cultural and racial issues, social norms and stigmas. The use of qualitative research is appropriate when the researcher wants to answer questions or solve a problem by collecting data to generate a theory or hypothesis.  Qualitative research uses context and a non-judgmental approach to attempt to understand the phenomena in question from the subject’s point of view and is used to capture expressive information not conveyed in quantitative data about beliefs, values, feelings, and motivations that underlie behaviors (Berkwits & Inui, 1998). Qualitative research is a form of inquiry that analyzes information observed in natural settings.

Qualitative Research is also used to uncover trends in thought and opinions, and dive deeper into the problem. Qualitative data collection methods vary using unstructured or semi-structured techniques. Some common methods include focus groups (group discussions), individual interviews, and participation/observations. The sample size is typically small, and respondents are selected to fulfill a given quota. There are four philosophical assumptions of qualitative methodology recognized in psychological research: ontology, epistemology, axiology, and methodology.

Qualitative research comes from a variety of psychological research disciplines and traditions (Crabtree & Miller, 2012). It is a unique research approach because it allows research access to information that goes beyond quantitative measure. However, the main weakness of the qualitative approach is that it is difficult to provide generalizable foundation for scientific decisions and procedures behaviors (Berkwits & Inui, 1998). It is important to mention that some qualitative approaches use technical methods (such as statistical content analysis) to determine the significance of findings, while others rely on researchers thoughtful reflection (Crabtree & Miller, 2012).

Examining Quantitative Research

Quantitative research is experimental and objective. The objective of quantitative research is essentially to collect numerical data to explain a particular phenomenon (Hoe and Hoare, 2012). By using measurable data researchers are able to formulate facts and uncover patterns in research. The quantitative approach involves a systematic empirical investigation of a phenomenon using numerical data. It is used to identify evidence of cause and effect relationships, as well as collect data from a larger population than qualitative research (Downey & Ireland, 1979).

When conducting a quantitative study researchers use statistical tests to analyze research data. Quantitative data collection methods include various forms of surveys, face-to-face interviews, telephone interviews, longitudinal studies, website interceptors, online polls, and systematic observations. For researchers using the quantitative technique, data is primary and context is secondary. This means that researchers gather data that can be counted, but the context in which the data is observed is not very important to the process. The data is analyzed and rational conclusions are drawn from the interpretation of the resulting numbers (Downey & Ireland, 1979).

Researches elect to use quantitative research when their research problem and questions are best suited to being answered using quantitative methods. Quantitative research is designed to quantify a research problem by way of generating numerical data or data that can be transformed into useable statistics. There are four main types of research questions best suited for quantitative research. The first type of question is a question demanding a qualitative answer (Hoe and Hoare, 2012). For example, how many I/O psychology students are currently enrolled at Capella. The second type of questions is when numerical can only be studies using quantitative methods (Hoe and Hoare, 2012). For example, is the number of I/O psychology students enrolled at Capella rising or falling? The third type of question concerns understanding the state of a phenomenon, such as the contributing factors (Hoe and Hoare, 2012). For example, what factors predict the recruitment of I/O psychology students to attend online universities? The final type of question best suited for quantitative methods is the testing of hypotheses?

There are three quantitative research approaches: (1) experimental, (2) quasi-experimental, and (3) non-experimental. Variables are the foundation of quantitative research. Variables are something that takes on different values or categories. The experimental approach is used to study the cause and effect relationship of variables, specifically the independent and dependent variables. This approach involves the use of true random assignments of variables for analysis. The defining characteristic of the experimental approach involves the manipulation of the independent variable. The quasi-experimental approach is similar to the experimental approach however the main difference is that it does not include the use of randomly assigned variables. The final quantitative research approach, non-experimental, is a comparative approach that differs from experimental because there is no manipulation of the independent variable or random assignment of variables (Leedy & Ormrod, 2013). Sources of references: Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches (3rd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications. Leedy, P. D., & Ormrod, J. E. (2013). The nature and tools of research. Practical research: Planning and design , 1-26.

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International Society of Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise

Welcome to the International Society of Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise ( QRSE ). Founded in 2020, QRSE is a professional organization devoted to promoting, advancing and connecting qualitative research in the sport and exercise sciences. Given that we already have excellent sport and exercise societies the question becomes, ‘ Why another society’?  

qualitative research questions examples in sport

In 2009 the journal Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health (QRSEH) was established. Not long after the International Conference on Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise became a biennial event. The Routledge book series Qualitative Research in Sport and Physical Activity was also established. Since establishing the journal, conference, and book series numerous scholars across the world have asked if a society dedicated to qualitative research in sport and exercise was going to be established. The simple answer for some time was ‘No’. However, as time progressed and dialogues unfolded with hundreds of sport and exercise scholars at conferences, meetings, and over social media, it became clear there was a real need for a new society that complements others but which is distinctly qualitative and connects researchers from different disciplines.

QRSE was therefore established to provide both an international home solely dedicated to qualitative research and a forum that brings together researchers from different disciplines. It is open to all methods, methodologies, traditions, epistemologies, ontologies, and empirical work that fall under the umbrella of qualitative research. QRSE is also multidisciplinary by bringing together researchers interested in qualitative research from the disciplines of sport and exercise psychology, sociology of sport, sport coaching, sport pedagogy, leisure studies, sport management, sport policy, sport and exercise medicine, and others. 

qualitative research questions examples in sport


We strive to:

Promote qualitative research in the sport and exercise sciences

Advance excellence in qualitative research and teaching 

Provide a forum for networking, knowledge sharing, collaboration, lobbying, and fostering supportive relationships and communities 


qualitative research questions examples in sport

Brett Smith & Toni Williams


83 Qualitative Research Questions & Examples

83 Qualitative Research Questions & Examples

Qualitative research questions help you understand consumer sentiment. They’re strategically designed to show organizations how and why people feel the way they do about a brand, product, or service. It looks beyond the numbers and is one of the most telling types of market research a company can do.

The UK Data Service describes this perfectly, saying, “The value of qualitative research is that it gives a voice to the lived experience .”

Read on to see seven use cases and 83 qualitative research questions, with the added bonus of examples that show how to get similar insights faster with Similarweb Research Intelligence.

Inspirational quote about customer insights

What is a qualitative research question?

A qualitative research question explores a topic in-depth, aiming to better understand the subject through interviews, observations, and other non-numerical data. Qualitative research questions are open-ended, helping to uncover a target audience’s opinions, beliefs, and motivations.

How to choose qualitative research questions?

Choosing the right qualitative research questions can be incremental to the success of your research and the findings you uncover. Here’s my six-step process for choosing the best qualitative research questions.

  • Start by understanding the purpose of your research. What do you want to learn? What outcome are you hoping to achieve?
  • Consider who you are researching. What are their experiences, attitudes, and beliefs? How can you best capture these in your research questions ?
  • Keep your questions open-ended . Qualitative research questions should not be too narrow or too broad. Aim to ask specific questions to provide meaningful answers but broad enough to allow for exploration.
  • Balance your research questions. You don’t want all of your questions to be the same type. Aim to mix up your questions to get a variety of answers.
  • Ensure your research questions are ethical and free from bias. Always have a second (and third) person check for unconscious bias.
  • Consider the language you use. Your questions should be written in a way that is clear and easy to understand. Avoid using jargon , acronyms, or overly technical language.

Choosing qualitative questions

Types of qualitative research questions

For a question to be considered qualitative, it usually needs to be open-ended. However, as I’ll explain, there can sometimes be a slight cross-over between quantitative and qualitative research questions.

Open-ended questions

These allow for a wide range of responses and can be formatted with multiple-choice answers or a free-text box to collect additional details. The next two types of qualitative questions are considered open questions, but each has its own style and purpose.

  • Probing questions are used to delve deeper into a respondent’s thoughts, such as “Can you tell me more about why you feel that way?”
  • Comparative questions ask people to compare two or more items, such as “Which product do you prefer and why?” These qualitative questions are highly useful for understanding brand awareness , competitive analysis , and more.

Closed-ended questions

These ask respondents to choose from a predetermined set of responses, such as “On a scale of 1-5, how satisfied are you with the new product?” While they’re traditionally quantitative, adding a free text box that asks for extra comments into why a specific rating was chosen will provide qualitative insights alongside their respective quantitative research question responses.

  • Ranking questions get people to rank items in order of preference, such as “Please rank these products in terms of quality.” They’re advantageous in many scenarios, like product development, competitive analysis, and brand awareness.
  • Likert scale questions ask people to rate items on a scale, such as “On a scale of 1-5, how satisfied are you with the new product?” Ideal for placement on websites and emails to gather quick, snappy feedback.

Qualitative research question examples

There are many applications of qualitative research and lots of ways you can put your findings to work for the success of your business. Here’s a summary of the most common use cases for qualitative questions and examples to ask.

Qualitative questions for identifying customer needs and motivations

These types of questions help you find out why customers choose products or services and what they are looking for when making a purchase.

  • What factors do you consider when deciding to buy a product?
  • What would make you choose one product or service over another?
  • What are the most important elements of a product that you would buy?
  • What features do you look for when purchasing a product?
  • What qualities do you look for in a company’s products?
  • Do you prefer localized or global brands when making a purchase?
  • How do you determine the value of a product?
  • What do you think is the most important factor when choosing a product?
  • How do you decide if a product or service is worth the money?
  • Do you have any specific expectations when purchasing a product?
  • Do you prefer to purchase products or services online or in person?
  • What kind of customer service do you expect when buying a product?
  • How do you decide when it is time to switch to a different product?
  • Where do you research products before you decide to buy?
  • What do you think is the most important customer value when making a purchase?

Qualitative research questions to enhance customer experience

Use these questions to reveal insights into how customers interact with a company’s products or services and how those experiences can be improved.

  • What aspects of our product or service do customers find most valuable?
  • How do customers perceive our customer service?
  • What factors are most important to customers when purchasing?
  • What do customers think of our brand?
  • What do customers think of our current marketing efforts?
  • How do customers feel about the features and benefits of our product?
  • How do customers feel about the price of our product or service?
  • How could we improve the customer experience?
  • What do customers think of our website or app?
  • What do customers think of our customer support?
  • What could we do to make our product or service easier to use?
  • What do customers think of our competitors?
  • What is your preferred way to access our site?
  • How do customers feel about our delivery/shipping times?
  • What do customers think of our loyalty programs?

Qualitative research question example for customer experience

  • ‍♀️ Question: What is your preferred way to access our site?
  • Insight sought: How mobile-dominant are consumers? Should you invest more in mobile optimization or mobile marketing?
  • Challenges with traditional qualitative research methods: While using this type of question is ideal if you have a large database to survey when placed on a site or sent to a limited customer list, it only gives you a point-in-time perspective from a limited group of people.
  • A new approach: You can get better, broader insights quicker with Similarweb Digital Research Intelligence. To fully inform your research, you need to know preferences at the industry or market level.
  • ⏰ Time to insight: 30 seconds
  • ✅ How it’s done: Similarweb offers multiple ways to answer this question without going through a lengthy qualitative research process. 

First, I’m going to do a website market analysis of the banking credit and lending market in the finance sector to get a clearer picture of industry benchmarks.

Here, I can view device preferences across any industry or market instantly. It shows me the device distribution for any country across any period. This clearly answers the question of how mobile dominate my target audience is , with 59.79% opting to access site via a desktop vs. 40.21% via mobile

I then use the trends section to show me the exact split between mobile and web traffic for each key player in my space. Let’s say I’m about to embark on a competitive campaign that targets customers of Chase and Bank of America ; I can see both their audiences are highly desktop dominant compared with others in their space .

Qualitative question examples for developing new products or services

Research questions like this can help you understand customer pain points and give you insights to develop products that meet those needs.

  • What is the primary reason you would choose to purchase a product from our company?
  • How do you currently use products or services that are similar to ours?
  • Is there anything that could be improved with products currently on the market?
  • What features would you like to see added to our products?
  • How do you prefer to contact a customer service team?
  • What do you think sets our company apart from our competitors?
  • What other product or service offerings would like to see us offer?
  • What type of information would help you make decisions about buying a product?
  • What type of advertising methods are most effective in getting your attention?
  • What is the biggest deterrent to purchasing products from us?

Qualitative research question example for service development

  • ‍♀️ Question: What type of advertising methods are most effective in getting your attention?
  • Insight sought: The marketing channels and/or content that performs best with a target audience .
  • Challenges with traditional qualitative research methods: When using qualitative research surveys to answer questions like this, the sample size is limited, and bias could be at play.
  • A better approach: The most authentic insights come from viewing real actions and results that take place in the digital world. No questions or answers are needed to uncover this intel, and the information you seek is readily available in less than a minute.
  • ⏰ Time to insight: 5 minutes
  • ✅ How it’s done: There are a few ways to approach this. You can either take an industry-wide perspective or hone in on specific competitors to unpack their individual successes. Here, I’ll quickly show a snapshot with a whole market perspective.

qualitative example question - marketing channels

Using the market analysis element of Similarweb Digital Intelligence, I select my industry or market, which I’ve kept as banking and credit. A quick click into marketing channels shows me which channels drive the highest traffic in my market. Taking direct traffic out of the equation, for now, I can see that referrals and organic traffic are the two highest-performing channels in this market.

Similarweb allows me to view the specific referral partners and pages across these channels. 

qualitative question example - Similarweb referral channels

Looking closely at referrals in this market, I’ve chosen chase.com and its five closest rivals . I select referrals in the channel traffic element of marketing channels. I see that Capital One is a clear winner, gaining almost 25 million visits due to referral partnerships.

Qualitative research question example

Next, I get to see exactly who is referring traffic to Capital One and the total traffic share for each referrer. I can see the growth as a percentage and how that has changed, along with an engagement score that rates the average engagement level of that audience segment. This is particularly useful when deciding on which new referral partnerships to pursue.  

Once I’ve identified the channels and campaigns that yield the best results, I can then use Similarweb to dive into the various ad creatives and content that have the greatest impact.

Qualitative research example for ad creatives

These ads are just a few of those listed in the creatives section from my competitive website analysis of Capital One. You can filter this list by the specific campaign, publishers, and ad networks to view those that matter to you most. You can also discover video ad creatives in the same place too.

In just five minutes ⏰ 

  • I’ve captured audience loyalty statistics across my market
  • Spotted the most competitive players
  • Identified the marketing channels my audience is most responsive to
  • I know which content and campaigns are driving the highest traffic volume
  • I’ve created a target list for new referral partners and have been able to prioritize this based on results and engagement figures from my rivals
  • I can see the types of creatives that my target audience is responding to, giving me ideas for ways to generate effective copy for future campaigns

Qualitative questions to determine pricing strategies

Companies need to make sure pricing stays relevant and competitive. Use these questions to determine customer perceptions on pricing and develop pricing strategies to maximize profits and reduce churn.

  • How do you feel about our pricing structure?
  • How does our pricing compare to other similar products?
  • What value do you feel you get from our pricing?
  • How could we make our pricing more attractive?
  • What would be an ideal price for our product?
  • Which features of our product that you would like to see priced differently?
  • What discounts or deals would you like to see us offer?
  • How do you feel about the amount you have to pay for our product?

Get Faster Answers to Qualitative Research Questions with Similarweb Today

Qualitative research question example for determining pricing strategies.

  • ‍♀️ Question: What discounts or deals would you like to see us offer?
  • Insight sought: The promotions or campaigns that resonate with your target audience.
  • Challenges with traditional qualitative research methods: Consumers don’t always recall the types of ads or campaigns they respond to. Over time, their needs and habits change. Your sample size is limited to those you ask, leaving a huge pool of unknowns at play.
  • A better approach: While qualitative insights are good to know, you get the most accurate picture of the highest-performing promotion and campaigns by looking at data collected directly from the web. These analytics are real-world, real-time, and based on the collective actions of many, instead of the limited survey group you approach. By getting a complete picture across an entire market, your decisions are better informed and more aligned with current market trends and behaviors.
  • ✅ How it’s done: Similarweb’s Popular Pages feature shows the content, products, campaigns, and pages with the highest growth for any website. So, if you’re trying to unpack the successes of others in your space and find out what content resonates with a target audience, there’s a far quicker way to get answers to these questions with Similarweb.

Qualitative research example

Here, I’m using Capital One as an example site. I can see trending pages on their site showing the largest increase in page views. Other filters include campaign, best-performing, and new–each of which shows you page URLs, share of traffic, and growth as a percentage. This page is particularly useful for staying on top of trending topics , campaigns, and new content being pushed out in a market by key competitors.

Qualitative research questions for product development teams

It’s vital to stay in touch with changing consumer needs. These questions can also be used for new product or service development, but this time, it’s from the perspective of a product manager or development team. 

  • What are customers’ primary needs and wants for this product?
  • What do customers think of our current product offerings?
  • What is the most important feature or benefit of our product?
  • How can we improve our product to meet customers’ needs better?
  • What do customers like or dislike about our competitors’ products?
  • What do customers look for when deciding between our product and a competitor’s?
  • How have customer needs and wants for this product changed over time?
  • What motivates customers to purchase this product?
  • What is the most important thing customers want from this product?
  • What features or benefits are most important when selecting a product?
  • What do customers perceive to be our product’s pros and cons?
  • What would make customers switch from a competitor’s product to ours?
  • How do customers perceive our product in comparison to similar products?
  • What do customers think of our pricing and value proposition?
  • What do customers think of our product’s design, usability, and aesthetics?

Qualitative questions examples to understand customer segments

Market segmentation seeks to create groups of consumers with shared characteristics. Use these questions to learn more about different customer segments and how to target them with tailored messaging.

  • What motivates customers to make a purchase?
  • How do customers perceive our brand in comparison to our competitors?
  • How do customers feel about our product quality?
  • How do customers define quality in our products?
  • What factors influence customers’ purchasing decisions ?
  • What are the most important aspects of customer service?
  • What do customers think of our customer service?
  • What do customers think of our pricing?
  • How do customers rate our product offerings?
  • How do customers prefer to make purchases (online, in-store, etc.)?

Qualitative research question example for understanding customer segments

  • ‍♀️ Question: Which social media channels are you most active on?
  • Insight sought: Formulate a social media strategy . Specifically, the social media channels most likely to succeed with a target audience.
  • Challenges with traditional qualitative research methods: Qualitative research question responses are limited to those you ask, giving you a limited sample size. Questions like this are usually at risk of some bias, and this may not be reflective of real-world actions.
  • A better approach: Get a complete picture of social media preferences for an entire market or specific audience belonging to rival firms. Insights are available in real-time, and are based on the actions of many, not a select group of participants. Data is readily available, easy to understand, and expandable at a moment’s notice.
  • ✅ How it’s done: Using Similarweb’s website analysis feature, you can get a clear breakdown of social media stats for your audience using the marketing channels element. It shows the percentage of visits from each channel to your site, respective growth, and specific referral pages by each platform. All data is expandable, meaning you can select any platform, period, and region to drill down and get more accurate intel, instantly.

Qualitative question example social media

This example shows me Bank of America’s social media distribution, with YouTube , Linkedin , and Facebook taking the top three spots, and accounting for almost 80% of traffic being driven from social media.

When doing any type of market research, it’s important to benchmark performance against industry averages and perform a social media competitive analysis to verify rival performance across the same channels.

Qualitative questions to inform competitive analysis

Organizations must assess market sentiment toward other players to compete and beat rival firms. Whether you want to increase market share , challenge industry leaders , or reduce churn, understanding how people view you vs. the competition is key.

  • What is the overall perception of our competitors’ product offerings in the market?
  • What attributes do our competitors prioritize in their customer experience?
  • What strategies do our competitors use to differentiate their products from ours?
  • How do our competitors position their products in relation to ours?
  • How do our competitors’ pricing models compare to ours?
  • What do consumers think of our competitors’ product quality?
  • What do consumers think of our competitors’ customer service?
  • What are the key drivers of purchase decisions in our market?
  • What is the impact of our competitors’ marketing campaigns on our market share ? 10. How do our competitors leverage social media to promote their products?

Qualitative research question example for competitive analysis

  • ‍♀️ Question: What other companies do you shop with for x?
  • Insight sought: W ho are your competitors? Which of your rival’s sites do your customers visit? How loyal are consumers in your market?
  • Challenges with traditional qualitative research methods:  Sample size is limited, and customers could be unwilling to reveal which competitors they shop with, or how often they around. Where finances are involved, people can act with reluctance or bias, and be unwilling to reveal other suppliers they do business with.
  • A better approach: Get a complete picture of your audience’s loyalty, see who else they shop with, and how many other sites they visit in your competitive group. Find out the size of the untapped opportunity and which players are doing a better job at attracting unique visitors – without having to ask people to reveal their preferences.
  • ✅ How it’s done: Similarweb website analysis shows you the competitive sites your audience visits, giving you access to data that shows cross-visitation habits, audience loyalty, and untapped potential in a matter of minutes.

Qualitative research example for audience analysis

Using the audience interests element of Similarweb website analysis, you can view the cross-browsing behaviors of a website’s audience instantly. You can see a matrix that shows the percentage of visitors on a target site and any rival site they may have visited.

Qualitative research question example for competitive analysis

With the Similarweb audience overlap feature, view the cross-visitation habits of an audience across specific websites. In this example, I chose chase.com and its four closest competitors to review. For each intersection, you see the number of unique visitors and the overall proportion of each site’s audience it represents. It also shows the volume of unreached potential visitors.

qualitative question example for audience loyalty

Here, you can see a direct comparison of the audience loyalty represented in a bar graph. It shows a breakdown of each site’s audience based on how many other sites they have visited. Those sites with the highest loyalty show fewer additional sites visited.

From the perspective of chase.com, I can see 47% of their visitors do not visit rival sites. 33% of their audience visited 1 or more sites in this group, 14% visited 2 or more sites, 4% visited 3 or more sites, and just 0.8% viewed all sites in this comparison. 

How to answer qualitative research questions with Similarweb

Similarweb Research Intelligence drastically improves market research efficiency and time to insight. Both of these can impact the bottom line and the pace at which organizations can adapt and flex when markets shift, and rivals change tactics.

Outdated practices, while still useful, take time . And with a quicker, more efficient way to garner similar insights, opting for the fast lane puts you at a competitive advantage.

With a birds-eye view of the actions and behaviors of companies and consumers across a market , you can answer certain research questions without the need to plan, do, and review extensive qualitative market research .

Wrapping up

Qualitative research methods have been around for centuries. From designing the questions to finding the best distribution channels, collecting and analyzing findings takes time to get the insights you need. Similarweb Digital Research Intelligence drastically improves efficiency and time to insight. Both of which impact the bottom line and the pace at which organizations can adapt and flex when markets shift.

Similarweb’s suite of digital intelligence solutions offers unbiased, accurate, honest insights you can trust for analyzing any industry, market, or audience.

  • Methodologies used for data collection are robust, transparent, and trustworthy.
  • Clear presentation of data via an easy-to-use, intuitive platform.
  • It updates dynamically–giving you the freshest data about an industry or market.
  • Data is available via an API – so you can plug into platforms like Tableau or PowerBI to streamline your analyses.
  • Filter and refine results according to your needs.

Are quantitative or qualitative research questions best?

Both have their place and purpose in market research. Qualitative research questions seek to provide details, whereas quantitative market research gives you numerical statistics that are easier and quicker to analyze. You get more flexibility with qualitative questions, and they’re non-directional.

What are the advantages of qualitative research?

Qualitative research is advantageous because it allows researchers to better understand their subject matter by exploring people’s attitudes, behaviors, and motivations in a particular context. It also allows researchers to uncover new insights that may not have been discovered with quantitative research methods.

What are some of the challenges of qualitative research?

Qualitative research can be time-consuming and costly, typically involving in-depth interviews and focus groups. Additionally, there are challenges associated with the reliability and validity of the collected data, as there is no universal standard for interpreting the results.

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Writing Survey Questions

Perhaps the most important part of the survey process is the creation of questions that accurately measure the opinions, experiences and behaviors of the public. Accurate random sampling will be wasted if the information gathered is built on a shaky foundation of ambiguous or biased questions. Creating good measures involves both writing good questions and organizing them to form the questionnaire.

Questionnaire design is a multistage process that requires attention to many details at once. Designing the questionnaire is complicated because surveys can ask about topics in varying degrees of detail, questions can be asked in different ways, and questions asked earlier in a survey may influence how people respond to later questions. Researchers are also often interested in measuring change over time and therefore must be attentive to how opinions or behaviors have been measured in prior surveys.

Surveyors may conduct pilot tests or focus groups in the early stages of questionnaire development in order to better understand how people think about an issue or comprehend a question. Pretesting a survey is an essential step in the questionnaire design process to evaluate how people respond to the overall questionnaire and specific questions, especially when questions are being introduced for the first time.

For many years, surveyors approached questionnaire design as an art, but substantial research over the past forty years has demonstrated that there is a lot of science involved in crafting a good survey questionnaire. Here, we discuss the pitfalls and best practices of designing questionnaires.

Question development

There are several steps involved in developing a survey questionnaire. The first is identifying what topics will be covered in the survey. For Pew Research Center surveys, this involves thinking about what is happening in our nation and the world and what will be relevant to the public, policymakers and the media. We also track opinion on a variety of issues over time so we often ensure that we update these trends on a regular basis to better understand whether people’s opinions are changing.

At Pew Research Center, questionnaire development is a collaborative and iterative process where staff meet to discuss drafts of the questionnaire several times over the course of its development. We frequently test new survey questions ahead of time through qualitative research methods such as  focus groups , cognitive interviews, pretesting (often using an  online, opt-in sample ), or a combination of these approaches. Researchers use insights from this testing to refine questions before they are asked in a production survey, such as on the ATP.

Measuring change over time

Many surveyors want to track changes over time in people’s attitudes, opinions and behaviors. To measure change, questions are asked at two or more points in time. A cross-sectional design surveys different people in the same population at multiple points in time. A panel, such as the ATP, surveys the same people over time. However, it is common for the set of people in survey panels to change over time as new panelists are added and some prior panelists drop out. Many of the questions in Pew Research Center surveys have been asked in prior polls. Asking the same questions at different points in time allows us to report on changes in the overall views of the general public (or a subset of the public, such as registered voters, men or Black Americans), or what we call “trending the data”.

When measuring change over time, it is important to use the same question wording and to be sensitive to where the question is asked in the questionnaire to maintain a similar context as when the question was asked previously (see  question wording  and  question order  for further information). All of our survey reports include a topline questionnaire that provides the exact question wording and sequencing, along with results from the current survey and previous surveys in which we asked the question.

The Center’s transition from conducting U.S. surveys by live telephone interviewing to an online panel (around 2014 to 2020) complicated some opinion trends, but not others. Opinion trends that ask about sensitive topics (e.g., personal finances or attending religious services ) or that elicited volunteered answers (e.g., “neither” or “don’t know”) over the phone tended to show larger differences than other trends when shifting from phone polls to the online ATP. The Center adopted several strategies for coping with changes to data trends that may be related to this change in methodology. If there is evidence suggesting that a change in a trend stems from switching from phone to online measurement, Center reports flag that possibility for readers to try to head off confusion or erroneous conclusions.

Open- and closed-ended questions

One of the most significant decisions that can affect how people answer questions is whether the question is posed as an open-ended question, where respondents provide a response in their own words, or a closed-ended question, where they are asked to choose from a list of answer choices.

For example, in a poll conducted after the 2008 presidential election, people responded very differently to two versions of the question: “What one issue mattered most to you in deciding how you voted for president?” One was closed-ended and the other open-ended. In the closed-ended version, respondents were provided five options and could volunteer an option not on the list.

When explicitly offered the economy as a response, more than half of respondents (58%) chose this answer; only 35% of those who responded to the open-ended version volunteered the economy. Moreover, among those asked the closed-ended version, fewer than one-in-ten (8%) provided a response other than the five they were read. By contrast, fully 43% of those asked the open-ended version provided a response not listed in the closed-ended version of the question. All of the other issues were chosen at least slightly more often when explicitly offered in the closed-ended version than in the open-ended version. (Also see  “High Marks for the Campaign, a High Bar for Obama”  for more information.)

qualitative research questions examples in sport

Researchers will sometimes conduct a pilot study using open-ended questions to discover which answers are most common. They will then develop closed-ended questions based off that pilot study that include the most common responses as answer choices. In this way, the questions may better reflect what the public is thinking, how they view a particular issue, or bring certain issues to light that the researchers may not have been aware of.

When asking closed-ended questions, the choice of options provided, how each option is described, the number of response options offered, and the order in which options are read can all influence how people respond. One example of the impact of how categories are defined can be found in a Pew Research Center poll conducted in January 2002. When half of the sample was asked whether it was “more important for President Bush to focus on domestic policy or foreign policy,” 52% chose domestic policy while only 34% said foreign policy. When the category “foreign policy” was narrowed to a specific aspect – “the war on terrorism” – far more people chose it; only 33% chose domestic policy while 52% chose the war on terrorism.

In most circumstances, the number of answer choices should be kept to a relatively small number – just four or perhaps five at most – especially in telephone surveys. Psychological research indicates that people have a hard time keeping more than this number of choices in mind at one time. When the question is asking about an objective fact and/or demographics, such as the religious affiliation of the respondent, more categories can be used. In fact, they are encouraged to ensure inclusivity. For example, Pew Research Center’s standard religion questions include more than 12 different categories, beginning with the most common affiliations (Protestant and Catholic). Most respondents have no trouble with this question because they can expect to see their religious group within that list in a self-administered survey.

In addition to the number and choice of response options offered, the order of answer categories can influence how people respond to closed-ended questions. Research suggests that in telephone surveys respondents more frequently choose items heard later in a list (a “recency effect”), and in self-administered surveys, they tend to choose items at the top of the list (a “primacy” effect).

Because of concerns about the effects of category order on responses to closed-ended questions, many sets of response options in Pew Research Center’s surveys are programmed to be randomized to ensure that the options are not asked in the same order for each respondent. Rotating or randomizing means that questions or items in a list are not asked in the same order to each respondent. Answers to questions are sometimes affected by questions that precede them. By presenting questions in a different order to each respondent, we ensure that each question gets asked in the same context as every other question the same number of times (e.g., first, last or any position in between). This does not eliminate the potential impact of previous questions on the current question, but it does ensure that this bias is spread randomly across all of the questions or items in the list. For instance, in the example discussed above about what issue mattered most in people’s vote, the order of the five issues in the closed-ended version of the question was randomized so that no one issue appeared early or late in the list for all respondents. Randomization of response items does not eliminate order effects, but it does ensure that this type of bias is spread randomly.

Questions with ordinal response categories – those with an underlying order (e.g., excellent, good, only fair, poor OR very favorable, mostly favorable, mostly unfavorable, very unfavorable) – are generally not randomized because the order of the categories conveys important information to help respondents answer the question. Generally, these types of scales should be presented in order so respondents can easily place their responses along the continuum, but the order can be reversed for some respondents. For example, in one of Pew Research Center’s questions about abortion, half of the sample is asked whether abortion should be “legal in all cases, legal in most cases, illegal in most cases, illegal in all cases,” while the other half of the sample is asked the same question with the response categories read in reverse order, starting with “illegal in all cases.” Again, reversing the order does not eliminate the recency effect but distributes it randomly across the population.

Question wording

The choice of words and phrases in a question is critical in expressing the meaning and intent of the question to the respondent and ensuring that all respondents interpret the question the same way. Even small wording differences can substantially affect the answers people provide.

[View more Methods 101 Videos ]

An example of a wording difference that had a significant impact on responses comes from a January 2003 Pew Research Center survey. When people were asked whether they would “favor or oppose taking military action in Iraq to end Saddam Hussein’s rule,” 68% said they favored military action while 25% said they opposed military action. However, when asked whether they would “favor or oppose taking military action in Iraq to end Saddam Hussein’s rule  even if it meant that U.S. forces might suffer thousands of casualties, ” responses were dramatically different; only 43% said they favored military action, while 48% said they opposed it. The introduction of U.S. casualties altered the context of the question and influenced whether people favored or opposed military action in Iraq.

There has been a substantial amount of research to gauge the impact of different ways of asking questions and how to minimize differences in the way respondents interpret what is being asked. The issues related to question wording are more numerous than can be treated adequately in this short space, but below are a few of the important things to consider:

First, it is important to ask questions that are clear and specific and that each respondent will be able to answer. If a question is open-ended, it should be evident to respondents that they can answer in their own words and what type of response they should provide (an issue or problem, a month, number of days, etc.). Closed-ended questions should include all reasonable responses (i.e., the list of options is exhaustive) and the response categories should not overlap (i.e., response options should be mutually exclusive). Further, it is important to discern when it is best to use forced-choice close-ended questions (often denoted with a radio button in online surveys) versus “select-all-that-apply” lists (or check-all boxes). A 2019 Center study found that forced-choice questions tend to yield more accurate responses, especially for sensitive questions.  Based on that research, the Center generally avoids using select-all-that-apply questions.

It is also important to ask only one question at a time. Questions that ask respondents to evaluate more than one concept (known as double-barreled questions) – such as “How much confidence do you have in President Obama to handle domestic and foreign policy?” – are difficult for respondents to answer and often lead to responses that are difficult to interpret. In this example, it would be more effective to ask two separate questions, one about domestic policy and another about foreign policy.

In general, questions that use simple and concrete language are more easily understood by respondents. It is especially important to consider the education level of the survey population when thinking about how easy it will be for respondents to interpret and answer a question. Double negatives (e.g., do you favor or oppose  not  allowing gays and lesbians to legally marry) or unfamiliar abbreviations or jargon (e.g., ANWR instead of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) can result in respondent confusion and should be avoided.

Similarly, it is important to consider whether certain words may be viewed as biased or potentially offensive to some respondents, as well as the emotional reaction that some words may provoke. For example, in a 2005 Pew Research Center survey, 51% of respondents said they favored “making it legal for doctors to give terminally ill patients the means to end their lives,” but only 44% said they favored “making it legal for doctors to assist terminally ill patients in committing suicide.” Although both versions of the question are asking about the same thing, the reaction of respondents was different. In another example, respondents have reacted differently to questions using the word “welfare” as opposed to the more generic “assistance to the poor.” Several experiments have shown that there is much greater public support for expanding “assistance to the poor” than for expanding “welfare.”

We often write two versions of a question and ask half of the survey sample one version of the question and the other half the second version. Thus, we say we have two  forms  of the questionnaire. Respondents are assigned randomly to receive either form, so we can assume that the two groups of respondents are essentially identical. On questions where two versions are used, significant differences in the answers between the two forms tell us that the difference is a result of the way we worded the two versions.

qualitative research questions examples in sport

One of the most common formats used in survey questions is the “agree-disagree” format. In this type of question, respondents are asked whether they agree or disagree with a particular statement. Research has shown that, compared with the better educated and better informed, less educated and less informed respondents have a greater tendency to agree with such statements. This is sometimes called an “acquiescence bias” (since some kinds of respondents are more likely to acquiesce to the assertion than are others). This behavior is even more pronounced when there’s an interviewer present, rather than when the survey is self-administered. A better practice is to offer respondents a choice between alternative statements. A Pew Research Center experiment with one of its routinely asked values questions illustrates the difference that question format can make. Not only does the forced choice format yield a very different result overall from the agree-disagree format, but the pattern of answers between respondents with more or less formal education also tends to be very different.

One other challenge in developing questionnaires is what is called “social desirability bias.” People have a natural tendency to want to be accepted and liked, and this may lead people to provide inaccurate answers to questions that deal with sensitive subjects. Research has shown that respondents understate alcohol and drug use, tax evasion and racial bias. They also may overstate church attendance, charitable contributions and the likelihood that they will vote in an election. Researchers attempt to account for this potential bias in crafting questions about these topics. For instance, when Pew Research Center surveys ask about past voting behavior, it is important to note that circumstances may have prevented the respondent from voting: “In the 2012 presidential election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, did things come up that kept you from voting, or did you happen to vote?” The choice of response options can also make it easier for people to be honest. For example, a question about church attendance might include three of six response options that indicate infrequent attendance. Research has also shown that social desirability bias can be greater when an interviewer is present (e.g., telephone and face-to-face surveys) than when respondents complete the survey themselves (e.g., paper and web surveys).

Lastly, because slight modifications in question wording can affect responses, identical question wording should be used when the intention is to compare results to those from earlier surveys. Similarly, because question wording and responses can vary based on the mode used to survey respondents, researchers should carefully evaluate the likely effects on trend measurements if a different survey mode will be used to assess change in opinion over time.

Question order

Once the survey questions are developed, particular attention should be paid to how they are ordered in the questionnaire. Surveyors must be attentive to how questions early in a questionnaire may have unintended effects on how respondents answer subsequent questions. Researchers have demonstrated that the order in which questions are asked can influence how people respond; earlier questions can unintentionally provide context for the questions that follow (these effects are called “order effects”).

One kind of order effect can be seen in responses to open-ended questions. Pew Research Center surveys generally ask open-ended questions about national problems, opinions about leaders and similar topics near the beginning of the questionnaire. If closed-ended questions that relate to the topic are placed before the open-ended question, respondents are much more likely to mention concepts or considerations raised in those earlier questions when responding to the open-ended question.

For closed-ended opinion questions, there are two main types of order effects: contrast effects ( where the order results in greater differences in responses), and assimilation effects (where responses are more similar as a result of their order).

qualitative research questions examples in sport

An example of a contrast effect can be seen in a Pew Research Center poll conducted in October 2003, a dozen years before same-sex marriage was legalized in the U.S. That poll found that people were more likely to favor allowing gays and lesbians to enter into legal agreements that give them the same rights as married couples when this question was asked after one about whether they favored or opposed allowing gays and lesbians to marry (45% favored legal agreements when asked after the marriage question, but 37% favored legal agreements without the immediate preceding context of a question about same-sex marriage). Responses to the question about same-sex marriage, meanwhile, were not significantly affected by its placement before or after the legal agreements question.

qualitative research questions examples in sport

Another experiment embedded in a December 2008 Pew Research Center poll also resulted in a contrast effect. When people were asked “All in all, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in this country today?” immediately after having been asked “Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?”; 88% said they were dissatisfied, compared with only 78% without the context of the prior question.

Responses to presidential approval remained relatively unchanged whether national satisfaction was asked before or after it. A similar finding occurred in December 2004 when both satisfaction and presidential approval were much higher (57% were dissatisfied when Bush approval was asked first vs. 51% when general satisfaction was asked first).

Several studies also have shown that asking a more specific question before a more general question (e.g., asking about happiness with one’s marriage before asking about one’s overall happiness) can result in a contrast effect. Although some exceptions have been found, people tend to avoid redundancy by excluding the more specific question from the general rating.

Assimilation effects occur when responses to two questions are more consistent or closer together because of their placement in the questionnaire. We found an example of an assimilation effect in a Pew Research Center poll conducted in November 2008 when we asked whether Republican leaders should work with Obama or stand up to him on important issues and whether Democratic leaders should work with Republican leaders or stand up to them on important issues. People were more likely to say that Republican leaders should work with Obama when the question was preceded by the one asking what Democratic leaders should do in working with Republican leaders (81% vs. 66%). However, when people were first asked about Republican leaders working with Obama, fewer said that Democratic leaders should work with Republican leaders (71% vs. 82%).

The order questions are asked is of particular importance when tracking trends over time. As a result, care should be taken to ensure that the context is similar each time a question is asked. Modifying the context of the question could call into question any observed changes over time (see  measuring change over time  for more information).

A questionnaire, like a conversation, should be grouped by topic and unfold in a logical order. It is often helpful to begin the survey with simple questions that respondents will find interesting and engaging. Throughout the survey, an effort should be made to keep the survey interesting and not overburden respondents with several difficult questions right after one another. Demographic questions such as income, education or age should not be asked near the beginning of a survey unless they are needed to determine eligibility for the survey or for routing respondents through particular sections of the questionnaire. Even then, it is best to precede such items with more interesting and engaging questions. One virtue of survey panels like the ATP is that demographic questions usually only need to be asked once a year, not in each survey.

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    In sport management, qualitative research is often conducted as a case study or case studies design, using semi-structured interviews as the primary means of data collection and some form of coding as the approach for data analysis ( Shaw & Hoeber, 2016 ). There is nothing inherently wrong with case studies, semi-structured interviews, or coding.

  8. Qualitative Research Methods in Sport, Exercise and Health

    The book also extends the boundaries of qualitative research by exploring innovative contemporary methodologies and novel ways to report research findings. Qualitative Research Methods in Sport, Exercise and Health is essential reading for any student, researcher or professional who wishes to understand this form of inquiry and to engage in a ...

  9. Understanding participation in sport and physical activity among

    Qualitative research may be able to provide an answer as to why adults and children do or do not participate in sport and physical activity. ... which undertake cross-sectional surveys of pre-determined questions on individual's knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about sport and physical activity. For example, the HSE asks adults about activity ...

  10. Qualitative Inquiry in Athletic Training: Principles, Possibilities

    Qualitative research can also be known as naturalistic inquiry, interpretive research, phenomenologic research, ethnography, and even descriptive research. Although qualitative inquiry can be performed in a variety of ways, common tenets are shared in this paradigm. Patton 8 discussed these common tenets as themes of qualitative inquiry.

  11. (PDF) Interviews: Qualitative interviewing in the sport ...

    Brett Smith and Andrew C. Sparkes. The interview is the most widely used method to collect qualitative data in the sport and. exercise sciences. As Jachyra, Atkinson and Gibson (2014) put it, if ...

  12. A qualitative investigation of the role of sport coaches in designing

    Data collection. Taking a pragmatic approach to evaluation to ensure timely, practice relevant yet rigorous research [] the 15 sport coaches who had been trained in the RSPH Level 2 Award, attended the workshops and completed the on-line disability in sport course were invited for interview.All but one of those had also attended the knowledge exchange workshops with public health professionals.

  13. Qualitative interviews in sport and physical activity research

    'Bodilessness' as a limitation of narrative interviews. The limitations of narrative interviews in the exploration of emotions and physical sensations have been extensively described (Orr & Phoenix, Citation 2015; Tarr & Thomas, Citation 2011).In our own research on sport- and activity-related biographies, we have regularly noticed that paying attention only to the verbal expressions does ...

  14. Qualitative Research

    Qualitative research is an umbrella term for a diverse, expansive, and continuously evolving array of research interpretive paradigms, approaches, methods, evaluation practices, and products. Two popular approaches for doing qualitative research within sport and exercise psychology are grounded theories and interpretative phenomenological analysis.

  15. Qualitative Research Questions: Gain Powerful Insights + 25 Examples

    25 examples of expertly crafted qualitative research questions. It's easy enough to cover the theory of writing a qualitative research question, but sometimes it's best if you can see the process in practice. In this section, we'll list 25 examples of B2B and B2C-related qualitative questions. Let's begin with five questions.

  16. Sport Psychology Research Methods: Qualitative vs Quantitative

    Qualitative and quantitative research methods are the most commonly used psychological research approaches in sport psychology. Each has a unique purpose with very different procedures and objectives. ... There are four main types of research questions best suited for quantitative research. The first type of question is a question demanding a ...

  17. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports

    This qualitative study draws on principles of ethnographic research (Reeves et al., 2008) and uses a combination of data and researcher triangulation (Malterud, 2001a). Data collection. Data were collected during the period from June 2011 to May 2013 using focus group interviews, which were supplemented by participant observations.

  18. International Society of Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise

    Welcome to the International Society of Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise ( QRSE ). Founded in 2020, QRSE is a professional organization devoted to promoting, advancing and connecting qualitative research in the sport and exercise sciences. Given that we already have excellent sport and exercise societies the question becomes, 'Why ...

  19. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health

    Perceptions and experiences of exercise participation among persons with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: A qualitative study. Kristiann E. Man, Laura Sawula, Brendon J. Gurd, Sean Taylor, Matti D. Allen & Jennifer R. Tomasone. Published online: 06 Oct 2022. 125 Views.

  20. 83 Qualitative Research Questions & Examples

    The UK Data Service describes this perfectly, saying, "The value of qualitative research is that it gives a voice to the lived experience .". Read on to see seven use cases and 83 qualitative research questions, with the added bonus of examples that show how to get similar insights faster with Similarweb Digital Research Intelligence.

  21. Writing Survey Questions

    We frequently test new survey questions ahead of time through qualitative research methods such as focus groups, cognitive interviews, pretesting (often using an online, opt-in sample), or a combination of these approaches. Researchers use insights from this testing to refine questions before they are asked in a production survey, such as on ...

  22. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health

    Open Access. Understanding workplace collaboration in professional rugby coaching: a dramaturgical analysis. Edward T. Hall et al. Article | Published online: 22 Jan 2024. Open Access. View all latest articles. Explore the current issue of Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, Volume 16, Issue 2, 2024.